So probably you all know I have a few fantasies on file whenever I am tired of the grind. Fantasies are good for you! As long as you keep your expectations in check, they are fun to swizzle around in your brain. One of my more frequent fantasies revolves around having chickens, and milkable animals so I can make cheese, and looking out over rolling green hills. (I know my mom is rolling her eyes, because as a young adult I couldn't move to the city quick enough.) I have seen the movies "Funny Farm" and "Baby Boom" and "Under the Tuscan Sun" at least 100 times. I can't grow a carrot but, you know...details.
Anyway, I knew when I first read the reviews of this book, that it would feed right into the whole scene. I was told the audio was a must, and my library didn't have it, so it was only when Kathy sent it to me that the day was saved. My fantasy-ante has just been upped!
Synopsis: Josh and his partner Brent are high-octane New York City dwellers...Josh works for a posh ad agency and Brent works for Martha Stewart. But occasionally they like to get away to the country to pick apples and enjoy the peace and quiet. One weekend, they stumble into a quirky little town, not on the map, and find a gorgeous farm and historical mansion for sale. Impulsively, they take the plunge. They would be weekend gentlemen farmers! It would be fun! They would have a vegetable garden and sip their homemade apple cider by the fire!
Turns out, it was a little more work than they had ever imagined. With visions of Martha Stewart perfection, they chased dreams of the idyllic Thanksgiving, garden parties for their newly-acquired local friends, making goat milk soap for friends and family for Christmas, cutting down a beautiful giant Christmas tree to be trimmed, and making their own garland. Instead, they got ghosts, drunk turkeys, tomato-canning all-nighters, human remains in the garden, dead birds in their cherry trees, zombie flies taking over the house, and lots and lots of goats courtesy of their caretaker Farmer John. Eventually, both Josh and Brent became victims of the economic downturn and lost their jobs, and began to watch their relationship deteriorate as a result.
But these two were in the business of marketing and image, and they were ultimately devoted to one another, so they dug deep and created the brand of "Beekman 1802" (named after the man who originally built the mansion), complete with goat milk soap, recipes, how-to videos, gardening tips, and even pictures of their animals...basically the fuel to ignite the smoldering self-reinvention fantasy in all of us. Josh's account of their journey is a poignant, humorous, and insightful look at chasing your dream, coping with middle-age, love...and cleaning up goat poo.
My thoughts: Well, as you can see, I wrote a little more than I normally do on my reviews. I do try to keep it concise so you don't shut down half-way. But sort of like anything Joshilyn Jackson or Tana French, this required more heart and soul. I LOVED this book. And not just because Josh and Brent were living the life that is supposed to be mine (ha).
I have lived on a farm, so I do know that the works never ends. And I liked that Josh laid out the realities of it all. This was supposed to be their weekend retreat, and sometimes all they did was scoop up goat dung, till their garden or can vegetables. Old houses do have zombie flies (or in my parents' case, zombie ladybugs) that appear by the thousands no matter how many times you vacuum them up. Josh made me chortle out loud throughout the entire book. Josh and Brent's attitude was endearingly self-effacing and honest about their bumbling adventures.
I also loved (for lack of a better phrase) the gay twist on the story. I loved the fact that they were warmly accepted into this small town (where more than a few gay couples were in the center of the social hub). I adored their unflagging commitment to each other. They are adorable. There were not-so-adorable moments in the story, however, like Josh butchering his own turkey for Thanksgiving. One that he had raised. That whole scene devastated me. I think I'd have to outsource that job.
Based on some poking around I did on their website, it appears that these two have not only reinvented themselves, but their small town of Sharon Springs. They have numerous festivals, they have included the locals to help make Beekman 1802 a success, and hoards of people now flock there to see their slice of heaven. Kathy and I swear one day we are going to do a road trip. I'm just waiting on Josh or Brent to see this review and invite me.
A few words about the audio production: The narrator for this book is Johnny Heller, who is new to me but based on his resume, seems to know his way around the audio world. He perfectly portrayed Josh's "voice" so much that I could easily imagine that it WAS Josh speaking. It was a pleasant listening experience.
Audiobook length: 8 hours and 7 minutes (320 pages)
5 out of 5 stars