Chickens in the Road

Author: Suzanne McMinn

Publisher: HarperOne

Release Date: October 15, 2013

Blue Ribbon Rating: 4


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I have always had a thing for chickens and the simpler way of life.  Finding a book titled CHICKENS IN THE ROAD that's about such a life, which is also written by a romance author, well, that's just too much to resist.  Suzanne McMinn tells an honest, vivid and sometimes heartbreaking story about her real-life venture in farming and blogging.

Author Suzanne McMinn writes romance books, but after a divorce she decides to move to where her family originally hailed from, West Virginia.  She packs up her three kids and moves to one of her family member's old homes nicknamed "the little slanted house" for its slanting floors.  She meets "52", who becomes a friend and then a lover and finally, her partner in their joint dream of owning a farm.  Suzanne begins blogging about her farm adventures and writing for newspapers, eking out a modest living while trying to live a life of self-sustainability.

Being a self-sufficient farmer is hard work with many obstacles and hardships to face, but Suzanne's journey is made more difficult by building their farm in a place where you have to cross three creeks or ford a river to get there without bridges.  Civilization is beyond those creeks and the river, so in inclement weather stranded is her reality.  Add to that, an ever-growing strained relationship with "52" and Suzanne is increasingly focused on how she will hold onto the farm and her dreams that include her new business, her website.  Hard lessons are part of the journey but then, most of us already know that reaching for our dreams is not always easy, and is oftentimes heartbreaking in the process.  It's overcoming the hardships that make the success more meaningful.

I really enjoyed this book and greatly admire the author's tenacity.  The stories about the animals are great.  Especially poignant is how a farmer must face reality when it comes to looking at livestock as pets versus a way to sustain the farm.

The only quibble I have with the book is that some internal dialogue and facts were repeated, sometimes several times.  I realize that some repetitiveness is needed to show strength and perseverance against a negative situation that continued to repeat itself, but it was hard to read about over and over.  Maybe that was the point and someone else who reads this book will remove themselves from a similar situation sooner because of it.

One of my favorite parts is the photograph section halfway through the book.  I had never been to the Chickens in the Road website prior to reading this book, so everything was new to me. Those photos brought my vivid imaginings from the author's words to life in color.  Another treat are the recipes and craft ideas at the back of the book.  I can't wait to make my own flour tortillas in a cast iron skillet and the dried flower candles are just lovely.  Even the retreats sound awesome and are something I'd like to try.  These features make this book a testament to a way of life many of us won't ever experience ourselves, but it gives us a chance to live it vicariously by making these recipes and trying the crafts.

In the end you can't help but cheer for a life well lived.

CHICKENS IN THE ROAD is one blogger's journey as she learns the old ways of making things from scratch, making do with what you have, and becoming creative in order to succeed.  This book is inspiring for anyone who has ever dreamed about getting back to basics and living off the land.  The journey isn't without hardships or heartbreak, but it's living the life she loves that becomes Suzanne McMinn's well-earned prize.

By Romance Junkies Reviewer: Dorine Linnen

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