Saturday, May 3, 2014

Book Review: Rural Free

Rural Free: A Farmwife's Almanac of Country Living by Rachel Peden
Quarry Books, 2009 (originally published 1961); 382 pages

Rachel Peden lived much of her adult life on a farm outside Bloomington, Indiana. For 30 years she wrote a column on farm life, "The Hoosier Farm Wife Says," for the Indianapolis Star. Her column became so popular with readers that what began as a weekly column ran four times a week by the end of Peden's career. One reader was so enamored with the column that she convinced her son, an editor at Knopf, to offer Peden a book deal. Rural Free is the first of Peden's three books on farm life.

Taken from material previously published in her column, Rural Free documents in short essays a year of farm living--the ups and downs, the weather, the animals, the lifestyle, and all that farmers faced in the rapidly changing mid-twentieth century. Peden also captures brilliantly a sense of place, not just a rural place, but a place in Indiana. She writes of wild blackberries and mushrooms and local history and the first spring rains and winter snows in a way that will delight anyone who loves nature. Her writing is poetic and lyrical and elegantly describes the beauty of farm life without glossing over its hardships. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves nature writing, farm writing, or Midwestern writing. Well, actually, I recommend this book to anyone who loves good writing.