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by Susan McCorkindale

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-451-22493-4
Publisher: NAL/Berkley

Former Family Circle marketing director McCorkindale writes about adapting to life on a Virginia cattle farm.

Burnt out from her demanding job and frightened by 9/11, the debut author gave in to her husband’s dream of leaving suburban New Jersey for the pastoral paradise of Upperville, Va. She kissed goodbye the high-six-figure salary that had her “dripping in Donna Karan,” packed her six- and 13-year-old sons in the Durango, and accompanied her spouse South to raise chickens. McCorkindale christened their 1890 farmhouse “Nate’s Place” because her literary husband, nicknamed “Hemingway,” noted its resemblance to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s home. The fish-out-of-water story is divided into short chapters that read as self-contained anecdotes, each including a fluffy e-mail, a set of tips or a top-ten list at the end. (The most worthwhile is “The Impractical Girl’s Guide to Farm Speak.”) The author’s rural misadventures included rollerblading through a cattle guard, rescuing Hemingway from a toppled chicken perch, running from a stampede of cows, schvitzing in the double Burberry turtlenecks she donned in emulation of the locals (she drew the line at riding pants), and chasing loose hens in Via Spiga stilettos (two in a lengthy parade of designer shoes). But frustrations such as cheerless DMV workers, slow bank tellers and unreliable contractors, McCorkindale might be disappointed to know, are not unique to the countryside. The author is at her funniest when recounting her faux pas: assuming that “riding” meant the subway, or not knowing what address to give the 911 operator (numberless estate name or P.O. box?). Her prose is chatty and upbeat, conveying an odd mix of self-effacement and snobbishness. (Continual references to her pre-move success and fashion-police smackdowns will alienate some readers.) The book’s 227 footnotes range from shout-outs to loved ones to entirely separate stories, most of which are distracting and should have been cut.

More proof that funny e-mails and a good blog do not necessarily add up to a good book.