The other day I was checking out the list of new books the Coralville Public Library (my home away from home) had ordered. On the list was a book called Hit by a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn by Catherine Friend. Catherine Friend is a children’s book author. We were in a critique group together when I lived in Rochester! I knew she was working on this book…she told me so about seven or eight years ago when she and the rest of that group drove down to Cedar Rapids for an SCBWI conference I put together when I was an R.A….but I had no idea she’d gotten it published! At that time she said she was sort of struggling with her writing and she really didn’t know what this “thing” she was working on was.
Well, when I saw that book on the library’s list, I immediately checked to see whether they had it yet (they did) and whether I could check it out (I could). I’m only about halfway through it, but I am enjoying it SO much!!! Granted, part of the reason I’m enjoying it is because I know Catherine! I can hear her voice as I read her words. And I remember when some of the things she writes about happened!
The book is a memoir…it’s about what happened when she and her partner decided to buy a farm (at a time when a lot of other farmers were getting OUT of farming). It’s about her struggle to be both a writer and a farmer; it’s about the struggle any couple goes through when one gets swept away by a dream the other one doesn’t necessarily share. It’s a love story; it’s a story about compromise; it’s a story about finding yourself; and yes, it’s a story about learning to love the land (and the barn).
I remember when Catherine and Melissa bought that farm! Catherine mentions taking a class with author Marion Dane Bauer…I took it, too! (At that time the idea of driving in the Twin Cities gave me the heebie jeebies, so Catherine was nice enough to drive us every week.) On the way home from one of our classes, Catherine took me to see the land they were going to buy. I remember our writer’s group meeting at their brand new house for the first time (on a really stormy night, I might add) and getting the grand tour. I remember the office in the unfinished basement (and the unfinished door that was her desk). I remember when her first book came out (I remember when she sold it, too!), and I remember her first school visit. I was one of the people who’d often ask her how things were going on the farm…not knowing the turmoil she was going through. I remember the upside down grapevines. And the writers conference she missed because she was off learning how to feel sheep testicles…she’s come a long way since I met her. And she’s had quite an interesting life!
Catherine always was a wonderful writer, but she’s really outdone herself with this book. I have zero interest in farming, so if I didn’t know her, I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up. But if by some fluke I had picked it up, I think it still would’ve hooked me. She’s got such a nice, easy writing style. She’s FUNNY. And she writes about the stuff dreams are made up…who could ask for anything more in a book?
It’s been eleven years since we left Rochester…I have seen two other members of that critique group in the last couple of years, but I haven’t seen or spoken to Catherine since they all came down here for that SCBWI conference. I really should get in touch with her again…maybe after I finish the book. Or after I recommend it to my book group…we’re meeting next week, and I’m going to suggest this book for one of our next meetings. We tend to read children’s books or nonfiction (probably because we are two children’s book authors, two children’s librarians and three science people), so I think this would fit right in…