Tuesday, August 2, 2011

REVIEW: Home to Woefield by Susan Juby


Prudence Burns, a well-intentioned New Yorker full of back-to-the-land ideals, just inherited Woefield Farm—thirty acres of scrubland, dilapidated buildings, and one half-sheared sheep. But the bank is about to foreclose, so Prudence must turn things around fast! Fortunately she'll have help from Earl, her banjo-playing foreman with a family secret; Seth, the neighbor who hasn't left the house since a high school scandal; and Sara Spratt, an eleven-year-old who's looking for a home for her prize-winning chickens.

Home to Woefield is about learning how to take on a challenge, face your fears, and find friendship in the most unlikely of places.
  • Pub. Date: March 2011
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Format: Paperback , 320pp
  • ISBN-13: 9780061995194
  • ISBN: 0061995193

About the Author

The author introduces herself. Borrowed from her website...

I was raised in Smithers, BC, Canada and lived there until I moved to Toronto at age 20. I had a brief and unsuccessful career as a fashion design student and, after I worked at a series of low paying jobs, such as server, record store employee, etc., I began a degree in English Literature at University of Toronto, which I finished at the University of British Columbia. After graduating I became an editor at a self-help/how-to book publishing company based in Vancouver. Later, I did a master’s degree in publishing.

When I was a kid I wrote fiction but gave it up for a life of crime. Okay, that’s not true, but I did get seriously sidetracked. That time in my life is the subject of my memoir, Nice Recovery. When I was twenty, until I got myself together and when I was about 26 I started writing, in the morning before work, first on the bus, then in a coffee shop. This writing became my first novel, Alice, I Think, which was published by Thistledown Press in 2000.

When I first started writing my intention was to write a book about a teenager who doesn't fit in, but doesn't allow that fact to crush her. The Alice MacLeod series is my homage to oddballs. I wanted to create a character who has the courage and integrity to find her own way and define herself independently of other people. I've always admired people who can do that.

After finishing three books about Alice and her family, I decided that my goal is to write every kind of book I love to read. I’ve always loved horse books. I was a lunatic for horses when I was younger. I owned several horses over the years (for a time when I was quite young I was convinced I was a horse, but let's keep that between us) and I became obsessed with an equestrian sport called dressage. I quit riding when I left home to go to college, but part of me always thought I could have been a "contender". (In retrospect, I'm not sure why I would have thought that.) Anyway, I got a nice pay day when Alice, I Think was made into a TV series, and the first thing I did was rush out a buy a horse and start working on a book about two young dressage riders. The story was initially about two girls, but soon I fell in love with a secondary character, a boy named Alex, and the book became mainly about him. That one is called Another Kind of Cowboy.

I’m also a maniac for detective novels, which led to Getting the Girl, a comedy about an inept detective and a high school conspiracy he is determined to stop. Book number six is my memoir. I developed a bit of a substance abuse problem when I was thirteen and I ended up getting clean and sober when I was twenty. Nice Recovery is about that time. The book also includes information about options for people with addiction problems and interviews with amazing young people in recovery.

Home to Woefield, as it’s known in the U.S. and The Woefield Poultry Collective as it’s known in Canada, is a comedy about a young woman from Brooklyn who inherits a derelict farm on Vancouver Island. It’s the first of my novels published specifically for adults, though I’d say at least half the readers of my other books have been adults. I hope all my readers will like it. (It does contain quite a bit of swearing. Just be forewarned!) I’ve always wanted to be self-sustaining and able to grow my own food. All I lack is land and skill.

In addition to my writing, I teach creative writing at Vancouver Island University and at the University of British Columbia and I give workshops and talks. You can find more information about upcoming appearances on the Calendar page. 

To sum up this rather long-winded biography, I always tell people that if one person who is feeling isolated or left out reads my book and laughs and thinks "I'm not alone" or "at least I'm not as bad as the people she writes about", then I've achieved my goal.

I'm married and my husband James and I live in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island. 

Learn more on Susan's website
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My Thoughts
I don't know about you, but for me there came that moment during every visit to the farmers' market when I wanted more.

This story takes place on a farm in Vancouver, Canada.

My impressions/thoughts:

I was torn with this story. Part of me thought it was a cute story with amusing characters, and a storyline full of questions on ethics and morals. But then occasionally the story would get a little ridiculous. Sort of “over-the-top”. You know, like slapstick humor can be. For example, in Home Depot the employees are described as seeing the customer and physically running in the opposite direction. Granted, I've found through personal experience that Home Depot does not have the most helpful employees, and I know that this scene sort of embodies how the customer feels when they go to Home Depot, but it was just sort of ridiculous!

So I continually found myself frustrated by some of the preposterous setups. But the characters had some endearing features that kept me reading. Filled with relatively likable characters, I found that I probably liked the vet Dr. Eustace the most, but the irascible farmhand Earl was a character that I got a kick out of. An ornery loner, there is a warmth to him hidden underneath it all.

Many of the tidbits seemed a little self-serving to the author. A storyline pushing sustainable living, I can’t argue with the ideas in the book, as they mirror many of my own beliefs and desires. I turned pescatarian (a “vegetarian” who eats fish and seafood) about 1 ½ years ago, because of my issues with the way our agriculture is run. I decided that I may consider eating meat again if I find a humane and compassionate source for it, but not before. But the story just felt very self-serving. And I understand this. Really I do. I'm not trying to be too harsh or critical. I've been trying my hand at writing the last few months, and I myself am inclined to be a little self-serving in my writing, due to me putting so much of myself into it. I know that I am doing this, and I know that if I ever decide to share my writings with anyone else, this may wind up being a little off-putting for the reader.

However if you are interested in this lifestyle yourself, then I think this may be a very good story for you. In fact, I picked up a few resources while reading the book, and was then able to do some research and learn a little more from things mentioned in the story.

So if you are interested in organic produce, a sustainable lifestyle, conscious consumerism, and an individual’s ability to have a global impact on the world, then this story is for you.

I also learned from the book that the Iraqi thrash band Acrassicauda is now living safely in the US, which I was happy to learn. I've wondered about them since watching a documentary of their rise to popularity while living under Saddam's rule, and the danger from Muslim extremists that drove them into hiding in Turkey.

The Cover:  I like the cover, which shows someone feeding a chicken. You can almost see little 11-year-old Sara lovingly holding food in her hand for one of her little frizzle hens.

Content Rating: (vulgarity, sexuality, adult situations, etc.) Lots and lots of swearing! Some minor sexuality.

My final word: Overall an enjoyable story, despite it getting too silly and preposterous at times. A story of a woman empowering herself and not taking "no" for an answer-- not taking it from people nor from life. Grit, humor and human fallibility underlies the entire storyline.

My Rating: 7.5 out of 10


I received a copy of this book to review through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof.

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