The Provocative Part


I was talking to my ex-husband on the phone the other day. He mentioned that he knew some people who had ordered my book. I said, “Don’t worry. You’re only in a paragraph or two.” I’m not sure if he found that insulting or comforting. Maybe both. But the reason he barely appears in the book is because he wasn’t part of the story of my life in the time covered in the book. My book isn’t an autobiography; it’s a memoir. An autobiography is the story of someone’s entire life. A memoir is just a slice–the most interesting slice. While I do provide some brief background about my life, the book doesn’t start with “I was born” and go from there. It’s the story of my adventures at Stringtown Rising Farm, and the people, places, and events during that slice of my life are the focus of the book.

I couldn’t write a complete and honest story of my life during that time without writing about my relationship with the man I called 52. Just as I have never revealed his identity on my website, he is also not named in my book. It was, by far, the most difficult part of the book for me to write, but I didn’t realize until early reviews started coming in that it was also going to become a provocative part of the book. I’m not ordinarily a provocative person. I write cheerful posts about old-fashioned recipes, cute stories about farm animals, old-time crafts, and the wild, crazy, wonderful world of country life. The book includes all of those things, but it also includes the personal side of my life I never wrote about here. Without those personal stories, the book would have lacked the emotional depth and substance called for in such an endeavor. I pulled back the curtain to let you into my real world, while continuing to protect certain identities by keeping them anonymous. (I also never name the Ornery Angel in my book, just as she has never been named on my website.)

Writing about the very personal struggle I was engaged in during my time at Stringtown Rising was important to me, for a number of reasons, but most of all, I hope it is a part of the book that is inspiring. I make no bones about my own fault in what transpired, and I ultimately took responsibility for my own “rescue” by leaving Stringtown Rising. I am no victim. In fact, I considered myself a voluntary participant by my choice to remain in what became an increasingly unhealthy atmosphere of verbal and emotional abuse–and I’m not proud of that choice.

From the book: I found myself stretched out on the couch some days, staring at the ceiling wondering what I was doing with my life. I had convinced myself I could take 52’s abuse for the sake of the farm that I loved, but I felt as if I were dying inside.

My life, my business, everything depended on the farm–and 52’s help to survive there. I recognized my own responsibility. For the farm and for my business, I made a pact with the devil every day.

It was only by changing my own choices that I made my life better. It took me a long time to wake up to my own ability to choose happiness, no matter what I stood to lose in the process, and if my book inspires just one person to make that same choice to better their life, it was all worth it.

There will be, and already are, people who will react negatively to the personal side of my story. How readers respond depends on their own backgrounds, life experiences, and the personal frame from which they read the book. You can never please everyone, so criticism along with the praise is to be expected. Comments by advance reviewers include such widely varying remarks as these:

“I couldn’t put it down because I wanted to know what happened and how she dealt with him. A lot of suspense there. This is a memoir in every sense of the word, not just a homesteading book.”

“My only hesitation in recommending the book would be because of the verbal abuse that is described…. Battery happens on many levels, and I was so glad that it didn’t escalate into physical abuse. I about screamed for joy when Suzanne announced she was leaving.”

“….as the book went on, I began to dread picking it up, since it quickly became obvious that her romance would only go downhill.”

“I am moved by her honesty about her feelings for her significant other…. I laughed, cried, and hurt for her in many of the instances.”

“I guess I want books like this to focus mainly on the natural life. Family members can be difficult, as long as they are loving and come around in the end. Neighbors can be eccentric, but nobody should be mean. This book is messing with the formula.”

“I think Suzanne tries hard to be both honest and fair to 52. (Her mention of him in the acknowledgments is very sweet.)”

“It takes courage to change your life so radically like Suzanne did and it takes courage to get out of a bad relationship. I am glad her courage held out through them both.”

“For me, the troubles with 52 don’t detract from the book, they enhance it. Suzanne moved to the country to become more independent and figuring out relationship stuff becomes part of that journey, even for a former romance novelist.”

And if those snippets from reviews (you can read them in full on Amazon) tell you anything, it’s that I’m not making it up when I say this book is juicy, but it’s not juicy because I wanted it to happen that way so I could sell books. It’s just what happened. And then I wrote it down. Readers and reviewers will be discussing it, and yes, that feels weird to me. Because it’s my life, and I’m not anonymous. But hey, I wrote a memoir, so no whining here.

When I decided to write this book, I promised you, my readers, one thing–the whole story. You got it. And I hope, so much, that you do find it inspiring on multiple levels, and that it’s something you’ll want to share with your friends and family. While I’m sometimes not proud of who I was and things I did in the book, I’m proud of the book and where the story I lived in the book brought me today. And while I expect some chords of criticism for the provocative aspect of my story, I also know that part will resonate with many other readers and maybe, just maybe, change someone’s life.

That’s all that matters to me.
Dsc_8858zipmePhoto by Jerry Waters.


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  1. hotdogdee says:

    I too am what most people consider a strong independant woman but also found my self in this same situation. It happens a little at a time and tends to get worse over time. I didn’t find the courage to leave until it got physical. But I only allowed that to happen one time. I cried along with you and applauded when you found the courage to start over. Am looking forward to reading your whole book. So happy for you.

  2. rurification says:

    If it makes it easier for even one person to make positive changes, then it was worth it. I really admire the courage it took to pull the curtain back on that part of your life. [There will always be people who will feel free to throw stones. It’s easy to criticize what you haven’t had to live through.]

    Can’t wait to read it!

  3. Townie Farm Girl says:

    When I first start reading CITR, my marriage had just failed and, for awhile, I clung to the words in your daily blog as I tried to see my way through to a new life. My husband was also emotionally abusive and he was controlling as well. The hardest part of my recovery was reconciling how someone as strong and as smart as myself could not have seen what I was living with, but a counselor told me that it WAS because I so strong and intelligent that I survived as well as I did, having lived with a diagnosed narcissistic sociopath. I don’t believe all people are liars but I have learned that some can be very, very good at it. I am still a ways from getting back to my chickens and such, hence the TOWNIE Farm Girl, but I have also survived cancer in these few years. I WILL find my way back and I have enjoyed reading about your strength and perseverance along the way. GOOD FOR YOU and your book! So happy to hear about it!

  4. Metody says:

    Thank you for being brave enough to share the whole story in your book. Thank you for taking care of yourself; it is very difficult at times. I admire you very much and thoroughly enjoy your website peek into your daily life.

  5. CrisGee says:

    As a confirmed and unapologetic extrovert, I can only say thank you. As any cook knows, following a recipe, many things can go wrong but occasionally you end up with something new and tasty or even warped and tasty. Other times, it is the second attempt that is perfect. You would not be the person we have grown to love if your past were any different. Bottom line: it’s the story, whether fictional or memoir it is a story and from the reader’s vantage point there is no difference. A reader can only read a memoir, not walk with the person who lived it. So, for the reader, it is a story. If the story has no dark event or danger, how can we celebrate the Happily Ever After? I for one thank you for you honesty and celebrate the extrovert who shares to teach. I often share stories of my past, not for sympathy or admiration but so the listener can learn from my mistakes -isn’t that always the better way to learn?

  6. doitsister says:

    Thank you for your willingness to share your story. It does give others hope and I applaud you for taking back your life on your own terms. I am so looking forward to reading your book after enjoying your blog for so many years. You are inspiring, so keep up the great work!

  7. Lois says:

    To CrisGee: I have to wonder if anyone really does learn from our mistakes? Maybe our encouragement will motivate someone else to try to do better but there are some of us (myself included) who are just bound and determined to go through that “school of hard knocks” because while it may have happened to you, it certainly won’t happen to me. Famous last words! I also wonder if the internet had been around 50 years ago (when I still believed everything I read) how much different my life might have been! Suzanne – is my book shipping today???? Tell Amazon to HURRY! 😆 I am so looking forward to reading past the first chapter!

  8. kup47 says:

    I farmed for over 11 years. My relationship was also verbally and mentally abusive. Like you I made a pact everyday in a hope that things would get better. When I walked away my reflecting told me that my life previous to farming was a mess. My life farming wasn’t perfect, but it also afforded me solitude and a great appreciation of what were my strengths and weaknesses along with how humbling life on a farm can be in how everything is connected.

  9. Kathi says:

    Yes, thank you for sharing. I had a little hint of what was to come for me just a week after my wedding day (when I was married to Mr. Poopie). It took me 20 years to convince myself that there was no more work that could be done by myself and I ended the relationship. Be glad it didn’t take you that long! I’m 12 years into my new life, and I am very happy. I have never shared the really bad stuff with anyone but my new husband, and I admire your courage to share with us. Thank you, Suzanne.

    (Oh — and I’m now on Chapter 6. I LOVE having a Kindle.)

  10. CarrieJ says:

    I remember when all that went down with 52, and from out of nowhere you made that one post where he took the dishwasher donated to you by a reader. I wanted to jump on a plane and come find him and his stolen dishwasher. I have a few pictures of him from CITR Retreat 2011.

    I pre-ordered my book from Amazon. I thought about doing the Kindle version, but there is nothing like a book and it’s one I’ll read again. Hopefully it gets here soon!

  11. Faith says:

    @Kathy, it took me 26 years and I am 2 and 1/2 years into my new life…and I am very happy! The longer I am out of it, the more clearly I see, and the less I care what others think. Suzanne you did good, you are doing good, carry on and enjoy! Today is a day when your bloggers comments are as encouraging and relateable to me as your post, and to think I thought my story was so unique! Can’t wait to get your book!

  12. milesawayfarm says:

    Loved the book. Just finished it last night. My favorite part: When you were asked when you realized you didn’t need a man, and your answer was, when he stopped showing up. Sometimes you have to bear the pain of being alone to discover who you are and what you are capable of. And sometimes that being alone happens while the other person is still there. I learned a similar lesson more than 15 years ago. And then I CHOSE to be with my husband, because we were so good together, and not because I didn’t want to be alone, or because I needed a man to help me. SO proud of who you became in this book, and the roll model you will be to other women (and men) learning this lesson. But I still want to know (and realize I may never know) what will become of 52 – will he ever face down his demons, and were you able to sell Stringtown Rising?

  13. sdsue says:

    I received your awesome book on my kindle around midnight Monday October 7. I restrained myself from reading it until mid-day Tuesday. I did nothing else Tuesday but read your “life” until I finished. Thank you. Thank you for your honesty, for letting us know what was really happening behind the scenes of your wonderful posts on this blog. I remember cheering when you bought Sassafrass Farm on your blog. I cried when I got to that part in your book. I cried when you and 52 said your goodbyes, I have said goodbye to many unrealized dreams. You still continue to be an inspiration to me and I am not living the hell that you lived in Stringtown Rising. Your funny posts about the animals are what keeps me going some days when I need a lift. Grandmother Bread is my husband’s favorite bread. I share your stories and pictures with him when he asks, “how’s the chicken lady doing these days?” You and your blog are a staple in my day, next to coffee and chocolate. Please continue to share your life with us, we need you to push us into our dreams and beyond. Thanks for being YOU!

  14. catslady says:

    I see no reason for criticism – you did not write a romance but a memoir and people should know the difference.

  15. MMHoney says:

    Hi every one in CITR
    A poem that I carry in my heart is “Myself” by Edgar A Guest
    It helps the “hurt”. If you have not read “Myself” spend a little time on the internet – Enjoy and have a good day.

  16. nanaK says:

    Just wanted to say …
    Sometimes, walking away has nothing to do with weakness, and everything to do with strength.

    [*Abuse can come disguised in many forms*]

    We walk away, not because we want others to realize our worth and value, ( although this may be what we are thinking within), but because we finally realize our own. :happyflower:

  17. holstein woman says:

    Suzanne, I a praying for the quick sale of Stringtown Rising. I love your honesty in all your writing and also pray the book is a tremendous seller for you. I can hardly wait to get mine. Love U, L

  18. Liz Pike says:

    I pre-ordered the hardback and have cleared my calendar & stocked up on caffeine for the day it arrives!! I too was in a very similar situation years ago. Thankfully after 4 years, it “dissolved” and I was able to rebuild my life. I used to beat myself up too for what I perceived my weakness but since applaud myself for the loyalty, the not wanting to give up, the tenacity & strength to try. As I do you too Suzanne!! I bet your book will help more women than you’ll ever realize!!

  19. Mim says:

    I really loved your book… Hoping that another will follow with the next phase… gave me the feeling that I could do anything I put my mind to…example: picked up used window from my brother, brought it home..husband came out to “help” me getting the window out of the comment was- I can get it..I am working on getting to be
    self-sufficient..he gave me a look and my response was; You need to read the book…. :pawprint:

  20. Chic says:

    Hi Suzanne, I just wanted to say that I recently bought your book. I had been waiting for it ever since you announced you were writing one. I have to say…I LOVED IT. I couldn’t put it down. It was sad to read what you went through at Stringtown Rising but came out if it stronger and wiser. I haven’t been visiting blogs much for over a year but I’m so glad I stopped by a few weeks ago to find out you had written the book. I had forgotten what I was missing here on your blog so I will be back from time to time to catch up on your new life. Take care. 😀

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