A COUNTRY YEAR: Living the Questions by Sue Hubbell
Kirkus Star

A COUNTRY YEAR: Living the Questions

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Sparkling description of a year of beekeeping on a 100-acre farm in the Missouri Ozarks, an operation run by one woman alone. After 30 years together, Sue and her husband Paul Hubbell divorced. He left her their farm, equipment and varied wildlife, including 200 beehives that (during the year described) produced 30,000 pounds of top-grade honey. For the first three years after Paul left, Sue was ""out to lunch,"" unable to read anything but the lightest froth. And then one day she jelled again: "". . .I set about doing all the things that one does when one returns from lunch. I cleared the desk and tended the messages that others had left. I had been gone a long time, so there was quite a pile to clear away before I could settle down to the work of the afternoon of my life, the work of building a new kind of order, a structure on which a 50-year-old woman can live her life alone, at peace with herself and the world around her."" Peace came not only from beekeeping for 10-to-12 hours daily for three of the four seasons. It came also from closely watched creeper frogs, spiders, coyotes, copperheads, owls, chickens, opossums, caterpillars, mites, termites, bobcats, bats, deer, flowers and trees, among other growing things. Her book more or less alternates chapters between beekeeping and wild things. And none of it is academic, though Hubbell has a trained eye. Bees are, ""when all is said and done, simply a bunch of bugs. But spending my days in close and intimate contact with creatures who are structured so differently from humans, and who get on with life in such a different way, is like being a visitor in an alien but ineffably engaging world. In town I am known as the Bee Lady. Whatever could I do to equal that?"" This is a book one wants to quote from beginning to end, not only its cinnamon-flavored pages about bees and honey-making, but also those about a woman chain-sawing a winter's firewood by herself in the woods, about weathering the winter while snowbound, and helping out when there's a suicide on the nearby picnic grounds. Stirring--and more richly alive than any PBS nature film.

Pub Date: April 10th, 1986
ISBN: 0395967015
Publisher: Random House