I’m predictable as a moth to a flame: give me a book about a city slicker tossing it all for life in the country, and I’m all over it. Never mind that I hate bugs and don’t really like being outdoors. I’ve got my country living fantasies, and I can’t resist a back-to-the-land book, so when I was asked to review Rurally Screwed: My Life Off the Grid With the Cowboy I Love, I said yes and yes. In it, author Jessie Knadler goes for it: to be with cowboy Jake, she ditches her very urbane life as a magazine editor in New York for chicken raising, studying the Bible, and making moonshine in the country.
Jessie meets Jake at a rodeo she’s covering for work, and the extremes of bull-riding she witnesses make a decent metaphor for her own highs and lows in moving to the country with Jake. The story gallops along, and while she flies high living with a man who she admires and adores, Jessie also lands flat on her back trying to navigate the precarious edge between adapting to her new community and retaining some identity of her own. Jake only has one real flaw in this book, but it’s a biggie so we’ll let it go, and that’s his apparent oblivion to her struggle on that edge.
She makes her way, of course, and comes out wiser for it, just like we do. Meanwhile, we get to watch her erratic ride, which she describes in a voice that is at once caustic, warm-hearted, and laugh-out-loud funny. The book takes an incisive slice into both city and country living, and denizens of both walks of life would enjoy it.
One personal note before I sign off, and that’s that I found the very first part of the book kind of uncomfortable to read. It was perfectly well-written, and it isn’t long, but the empty feelings that characterize Jessie’s life as a single woman before she met Jake really do reveal a hard time. I’m married now, and my trials as a mother of three are so alien to the ones I had before meeting my husband that I rarely think about those earlier times. Plus singledom was hardly all bad for me, as I’m sure it wasn’t for Jessie either. But reading about her single life had the unexpected upside of reminding me why I really am so much happier now that I’m hooked up to the right man, and I was glad for the chance to lift my head up long enough to appreciate the challenges of another stage of life.
A bonus of reading Rurally Screwed, which might be a perfect summer read, is that you can keep up with Jessie through her blog which, predictably, is quite a lot of fun.