Lots of lush land, hearty animals grazing and a wardrobe consisting of overalls and work boots—these are the classic images that come to mind for most folks when they think about life on the farm. For Susan McCorkindale, the first two visions ring true, though she prefers a pair of heels to finish off her country couture. The author continues to chronicle her life as city girl turned a little bit country in her second memoir, 500 Acres and No Place to Hide: More Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl.
Read the review for McCorkindale's first book, Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl.
In a series of essays, e-mails and lists, McCorkindale brings to life her family's farming adventures, from chasing chickens out of flower boxes to routinely fishing out wonders like castration bands from her washing machine. The role of work-at-home mom, which many readers will be able to identify with, must function beside her additional responsibilities as the wife of a farmer, which she describes in such humorous detail that hilarious footnotes are regularly called into service. Soon enough, McCorkindale finds herself walking the farm walk more often, even if her choice of footwear still doesn't include work boots.
As if a complete lifestyle change wasn't enough for her family to cope with on the farm, they soon face even greater challenges when her husband is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Suddenly, the management of the farm falls squarely on her shoulders, in addition to being the primary caregiver for her three McMen. Her two sons—one in elementary school, the other a teen—begin to mature rapidly before her eyes, emerged in this serious and emotional family crisis.
Somehow McCorkindale conveys the full array of emotions involved in this painful experience without ever losing her signature humor, so that the melancholy surrounding her husband's illness fits right next to the hilarity involved in now trying to run the farm on her own. Unafraid to drop an expletive here and there, she carries on, trying to retain a life filled with some normalcy for her children, all the while facing a growing reality of her husband's mortality.
Additionally, essays about her relationship with her husband post-diagnosis pull at readers' heartstrings with their sincere emotion, including one about conversations during long drives from the Georgetown hospital visits and chemotherapy treatments back to their Virginia farmland home. Yet, through all the pain and emotion, McCorkindale never strays toward the sappy or sentimental.
Especially touching is her exploration into the experience through her sons' eyes. A hat bearing the message “Cancer Sucks” becomes a regular fixture on her youngest's head, and in typical tween fashion, his emotional expressions are sparse but powerful. “Normal” often shifts, they soon learn, and their new normal calls for quite an adjustment.
McCorkindale brings a lifestyle change, parenting two ever-growing boys and lovingly caring for a sick spouse all together in 500 Acres and No Place to Hide, a memoir that will just as easily make readers laugh as wipe tears from their eyes.
When she's not reviewing books on 5 Minutes for Books, Dawn Mooney (and her online alter ego, morninglight mama) can be found blogging at my thoughts exactly, pondering parenthood on her local Patch, and being a twit @mteblogmama.