Should you be seeking substance, or quality insights pertaining to stewardship of land and animals, you will not find that here. Anyone with experience as a farmer or rancher (which I have) will soon be wincing in embarrassment for the author and for her husband. The all-too-common personality encountered here is a sad and discouraging comment on our society. Because this pair (the author and her husband) decide that they want what they want when they want it (a fully developed farm in one year), their animals suffer inexcusably, their families suffer, and the reputations of young farmers in America suffer due to the impatience and hubris of this couple.
This farming memoir is absolutely not a good example of how to behave, or of how to learn, or of how to live an ethical life. The hopes of the author were laudable (to produce excellent organic food for a community), but the actions of the author and her husband were breathtakingly exploitive. The author does not see the pointy-elbowed approach to life that she and her husband personify in "The Dirty Life." Working ridiculously hard at a task does not magically create grace, and it does not justify exploding the lives of others (human or animal) just to get what one wants. For instance, the text explains that the couple had the time and money to host a party of perhaps 2 dozen people for their wedding at the farm, but instead they invite 300 guests and happily allow their exhausted families to work for days on end just to save the event from being a catastrophic disappointment. They buy chickens before they have adequate housing for the birds, and frostbite (quite predictably) is the result. It continues in this vein and only gets worse, without the author ever stumbling over her own tragic lack of compassion for those she and her husband use up and inconvenience. This is not sustainability. This is not a new model for farming. This is a self-indulgent adventure for an irresponsible and, sadly, arrogant couple.
Klondike of the South, January 6, 2012 (view all comments by Klondike of the South)
I confess that I am a glutton for this sort of Beginning Farmer Memoir--it helps me deal with the disappointment of being stuck in a dead-end city job and keeps my five-year plan well lubricated--and this certainly hits all the right notes. But it goes far beyond the expectations of the genre with its lovely writing. I was spellbound. I ate it up in a night, a night during which I was supposed to be grading student papers. It was entirely worth it.
Kate Gardoqui, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by Kate Gardoqui)
Part love story, part coming-of-age story, part meditation on glorious food and its dirty origins, this book is many things but never boring. Kimball's voice moves gracefully from witty and blunt to poetic and powerful as she describes her adventures, discoveries, humiliations and accomplishments as a New York City writer transforming herself to organic farmer.
The book traces Kimball's journey from hipster to farmer, which commences after she meets Mark Guenther, a farmer whom she has gone to interview for an article. Falling in love with Mark, Kristin discovers a new universe unfolding before her, a world of hard work and rich rewards, of food pulled fresh from the mud to simmer and blossom in the pan. Kristin is as good a food writer as a memoirist, and her descriptions of rustic delicacies inspired me to try new ingredients and recipes.
I've started using parts of The Dirty Life with my eleventh and twelfth grade English students, who share my rave review. The honesty and humor of Kimball's writing voice pulls them in, and the vividness of her storytelling keeps them reading. Five stars for this wise and compelling tale.
maren, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by maren)
The author perfectly blends her experience with the local food movement and the challenges of a young relationship. It comes across as refreshingly honest without being overly sappy or too self-absorbed. I simply enjoyed the book, but it also seems like it could be a relationship self-help book for those individuals who wouldn't be caught dead reading a relationship self-help book.
JanetE, September 1, 2011 (view all comments by JanetE)
Dirty Life is Eat, Pray, Love with a funny, self-deprecating narrator and a novel twist on the popular memoir of self-discovery and transformation. An urban journalist assigned to write a little piece on the burgeoning small-farms movement, Kimball gets collared by Cupid in a carrot patch and chucks everything to follow this hunky farmer (my friend says all this book lacks is a centerfold of Kimball's husband) on his quest to feed the people. She sustains an honest, intelligent and hilarious voice throughout her chronicle of leaving behind the world of the agnes b. blouse and the subway for a back-to-the-land life she never knew she wanted, not sparing readers or herself the less-attractive moments of second thoughts and wild missteps. Along the way she clues all of us--wherever we may find ourselves on the spectrum from subway to compost pile--in to the joys and satisfactions and necessities of being involved with what we eat, whether we grow it ourselves or just come to know and appreciate the people who grow it for us. Funny, smart and well-paced. Highly recommended.
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.