The vast majority of books that I read are fiction. That’s not to say I refuse to read non-fiction but there it takes a lot more to pique my interest when I know the story is (supposedly) bound by reality. The cover of “The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentleman Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir”* (Josh Kilmer-Purcell) was all it took to rouse my curiosity with this one.
The book opens with an “Author’s Caution”. One page in and I was already giggling. By the time I finished the prologue, I was loathe to put the book down. Kilmer-Purcell recounts the journey of how he and his partner, Brent, transform from simply an advertising executive (Josh) and employee of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (Brent) to adding “gentlemen famers” and owners of Beekman 1802 to their resumes. Add in a dash of flashbacks to his drag queen days and you have quite a rollicking tale.
The first twenty chapters were lighthearted. Kilmer-Purcell recounts what could have been tense, uncomfortable scenes with humor. Hilarity is intertwined with quiet intimate moments. His jokes can be barbed but those are, more often than not, aimed at his self allowing the reader to laugh along at his antics. I laughed out loud more than a few times and twice so hard that tears rolled down my cheeks and my husband starting showing (more than usual) concern about my sanity.
Reality gives no guarantees of a happy ending and in Chapter 21 the tone turns much more somber, reflecting the conditions in their life. Though the hilarity has been set aside, the story is no less absorbing. Kilmer-Purcell is honest about their faults. He doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulties. He leads us down the dark roads memories as readily as he did the more buoyant ones. The last few chapters are a guided tour through his self-reflection and discovery as well how the realizations impact him and his actions. His recollection is so achingly transparent that I was drawn completely into the account.
If you don’t usually read memoirs, make an exception for this one. If you do, add it to your list. I haven’t read enough memoirs to judge if it is truly unconventional (although some of his stories certainly are!) but I will tell you, it’s worth your time.
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher for the purpose of review. I was not compensated in any way by HarperCollins for this review (unless you count a free book) nor did they in any way influence my opinion on this book.
*Since I have a pre-published review copy, the title reads “The Bucolic Plague: From Drag Queen to Goat Farmer: An Unconventional Memoir”. I kind of wish they hadn’t changed it.