Republic of Dirt
A Return to Woefield FarmBook
From the critics
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. . . I felt like a dog that someone was trying to give away to people who would just tie it in the backyard.
It had been so long since I’d heard writing that good that I was disoriented. True talent has that effect, I find. It’s so unexpected and undeniable. Like a poltergeist in the room.
I was feeling self-esteem. Unbelievable. Prudence is always yammering on about how every good decision makes it easier to make the next good decision, and how self-esteem is built one good decision at a time. I mostly tune her out, but I think she might be right.
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Prudence, Seth, Earl and Sara are back, and this time they’ve got a mule. Having started to make a go of it raising organic veggies during the summer, things take a turn for the worse when uber-liberal Prudence falls ill and refuses to treat her thyroid condition with anything more than herbs and ‘energy thoughts’. Her decision-making skills – normally somewhat dubious being perkily obstinate about seeing what she wants to see – are highly impaired by her condition, and between exceedingly long naps she gives $4000 to a contractor with a gambling addiction to build a barn, buys a condemned playhouse to convert into a road-side stand, and purchases the most mulish mule that ever lived and optimistically names it “Lucky”.
Trying to pick up the slack, Seth (a recovering alcoholic-agoraphobic) and Earl (the elderly curmudgeon who mixes metaphors) do their best to take care of 11-year-old Sara and the farm. However they have their own ways of doing things, and when good intentions collide, Sara is left vulnerable and in danger. She is forced to leave the farm and live with her separated parents, both of whom are so wrapped up in their own misery they pay little attention to their daughter. Things get a lot worse before they get better.
But there is a reason these four characters found each other before, and little by little (and with two big bollockings from Seth and Sara), the residents of Woefield find their way back to being a family unit, a team. And before winter settles in, the family unit expands to include a few more eccentric but ultimately decent folk who feel the charismatic pull of Woefield Farm. Told in alternating voices and perspectives of the four main characters, Republic of Dirt is just as laugh-out-loud funny as Susan Juby’s first Woefield novel, just as touching, and just as full of good family feeling and heart. A great late-winter read.
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