cover image Chickens in the Road: An Adventure in Ordinary Splendor

Chickens in the Road: An Adventure in Ordinary Splendor

Suzanne McMinn. HarperOne, $28.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-222370-8

A romance writer propelled by divorce to change her bearings radically found her road to self-realization much rockier than she imagined, but ultimately very satisfying. With relatives in rural Roane County, W.Va., where her father grew up, McMinn hit on the harebrained scheme to haul her three teenagers, aged 10, 13, and 15, to live in Walton in order to be exposed to the virtues of having no paved road, no Internet access, no public water source, and no school bus, among other no-frills. After settling in at her family’s house for two years, McMinn met a suitable man, called “52,” who was an amenable handyman and also seemed to want to take care of her; some time after, the two purchased a farm and built on it a house, Stringtown Rising. Except 52 had emotional problems, and despite the author’s back-breaking labor to take on animals like chickens, goats, cows, and pigs, and her writing a glowing blog about it all, she grew increasingly vulnerable to 52’s sniping. Although she had put her all into the Stringtown farm, as she delineates in her heart-on-her-sleeve, nutty narrative, she had to face the necessity for her own self-sufficiency, and found another farm close by that she could call her own and that even had amenities like a barn and electricity. As McMinn demonstrates in this enjoyable memoir, she learned by trial and error how to do everything from scratch, and offers Jelly”) and DIY (“How to Make Laundry Soap”) at the back. (Oct.)