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.
Photo by Jerry Waters.
You can order Chickens in the Road: An Adventure in Ordinary Splendor now!