Friday, April 22, 2011

SPL Shelf Life [adult]

This review appeared in the Stratford Gazette on April 21, 2011
Written by Robyn Godfrey, Librarian

The Woefield Poultry Collective by Susan Juby
@SPL: FIC Juby

Meet Prudence. She is a highly energetic and earnest eco-warrior from Brooklyn, New York. She’s just been left a farm in British Columbia that consists of a field of grass and stones, a depressed, half-shorn sheep named Bertie and a homestead with as many holes in the roof as shades of paint on the walls. But Prudence is convinced that with a little elbow-grease and enthusiasm (of which she has plenty), she can make a go of organic, pesticide-free farming, and get back to the land, if only she can raise the capital quickly enough to keep the bank from foreclosing on it.  She is kind of like Walt Wingfield in Dan Needles’ books – but with a whole lot more naivety (and that’s saying something). 

Meet Earl. He is the highly curmudgeonly old farm hand who knows as much about farming as Prudence’s uncle (which wasn’t much), although as a banjo player he’s a bluegrass prodigy. He thought he’d pick up and leave now that the old man was gone, but fate (and Prudence) have other plans for him, whether he likes it or not.  

Meet Seth. Prudence’s highly anti-social, perhaps alcoholic neighbour with paranoia tendencies, Seth considers himself a serious writer (well, blogger) and much-maligned by the world, especially when his mother kicks him out of his self-imposed exile in her basement and Prudence  forces him to do actual work in exchange for room and board on the farm. 

Meet Sara. She’s a highly motivated member of the Jr. Poultry Fancier’s Club, about eleven years old, has lately been quoting from Christian fiction novels and gets stomach aches when her parents fight. She was just looking for a place to house her prized frizzles and non-bearded black Polish chickens (the rooster of which is quickly dubbed Alec Baldwin), but she found a highly unlikely family in the collected misfits at Woefield Farm – they all did.  

Written as a series of internal monologues by each character, we can see how each person grows and develops both in their own voices and through the eyes of the others.  Quirky and humourous, poignant and reflective, The Woefield Poultry Collective is a delightfully written book, a joy to read, laugh-out-loud funny, and should be on your summer’s reading list. 

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