My beach bag is a mess. In it I’ve got a sticky tube of sunblock, melted lip balm, bug spray from 2009, broken hair clips, over-stretched hair bands, a comb missing several teeth, a brush that could be worn as a wig, crumpled (but not used) tissues, band-aids that have long since lost their ability to aid anybody, and several paperback books filled with sand. Two of those books, believe it or not, are the ones I’ve written. I like to walk up to women who are sitting on the beach reading and say, “Forgive me for interrupting, but I just finished this and it’s a terrific summertime read. Would you like it?” Nine times out of ten they say yes, and I give them a copy of 500 Acres and No Place to Hide.
According to several top book reviewers, 500 Acres IS a great summertime read. If you’ve read it, thanks. If you have a friend who hasn’t, and is headed to the beach or lake for one last Summer escape, why not get them a copy? They’ll have to stick sand in it themselves, but they’ll thank you!
Summertime. A perfect time for a memoir that is light-hearted and fun. McCorkindale’s humorist look at life in the slow lane is a great fit.
This is a sequel, but certainly nothing in the book requires you to have read the first one. The author’s approach is self-depreciating as well as funny, and the serious elements (e.g. her husband’s battle with pancreatic cancer) are dealt with in such a way that you can laugh and cry at the same time, and feel comfortable.
My own father used to say “I’m just a country boy trying to get along in the big city.” Well—McCorkindale is the complete opposite; a city girl trying to get by on 500 acres of beef cattle, outnumbered in her household by her two sons and husband.
“How many kids does it take to close the one and only gate that keeps the cattle in the pasture?” the author muses. Her answer? “Two. One to say, ‘what gate?’ and the second one to say, ‘I didn’t open it.'” With this sally, the intrepid McCorkindale takes on the farm. A woman a tad too obsessed with designer footwear and crow’s feet around her eyes, she is still able to bring a biting wit to her descriptions of farm animals, bad weather, and wearing Prada to do chores in the barn.
She mourns the loss of Taxi Takeout and made-to-order lattes, and in each essay in this book she takes a original look at her life in the country, complete with crowing hens, stinkbugs and Kudzu. She deals with her frustration with her writing: the local newspaper that has stopped printing her articles and owns up to the fact that her local readers feel she has gone to “the dark side.” Readers have complained that she is “…a bit bawdy, rather ribald, even risque…pining for bigger breasts and a smaller butt, my unabashed enthusiasm for high heels, tattoos and margaritas…even my reminiscences about high school boyfriends…are verboten. Taboo. Who knew?”
McCorkindale’s obsessions with personal looks, glamor, fashion and beauty may be a bit off-putting, but she writes ’em as she sees ’em. You may wonder about her style, her vision of child-rearing and her methods of dealing with a terminally ill husband, but you can’t deny that she has a strength in her humor, a veracity to her approach, and a refreshing ability to make a life for herself that she never planned. You come away from the reading of 500 Acres with a smile and an appreciation for someone who constantly makes lemonade when life gives her lemons.
I recommend this book for any woman, at any age, who wants a fun summer read that will also provide some introspection and self-evaluation!
by Laura Strathman Hulka
for Story Circle Book Reviews