The Monday Book: MUD SEASON, by Ellen Stimson

It’s a new era for this blog—well, not that new, but still. In celebration of passing 100K hits, I’m instigating THE MONDAY BOOK.

The first one was given me by Pamela, my agent. She met our train on our trip to NYC earlier this month with a book in her arms. Since our train was late, I asked her if she’d been enjoying it, and she grinned.

“Actually, this is for you.” She handed over Mud Season, by Ellen Stimson, published by Countryman Press. “I begged it off an agent friend, because it’s the antimatter version of Little Bookstore. This family moved to Vermont to get a quieter life, and it all went horribly wrong. Enjoy.”

You know the quote, I think in Catcher in the Rye, where Holden Caulfield says he sometimes wishes he could have lunch with the author of a book? That’s how I felt about Mud Season. Stimson is a successful entrepreneur, someone who has run various businesses well, selling them off for profits. But when she moved to Vermont, she kinda got stuck behind her business acumen, didn’t take local knowledge and expectation into account, and wound up pretty close to literally losing the farm (house).

For all that the premise sounds scary and not that fun, the stories are hysterical in and of themselves, and Stimson’s writing style is funny, funny, funny. She uses footnotes to deliver comedic timing–a better use for them than Academia ever found.

Her family moved to “the country” to get out of the rat race, and found once there that they might more or less be considered the rats. As they try increasingly clumsy attempts to save themselves, their Horribly Quaint Country Store (HQCS) fails slowly, steadily, and for reasons that have a lot to do with them not being from there—although that gas pump thing on page 142 really was not their fault. This comedy of errors has some life lessons floating below the surface, but they are less extracted and analyzed then left for the reader to find between the lines.

Which made me really enjoy the book. I’d love to have lunch with Ellen Stimson and trade stories on running a business, writing a book about running said business, and why “idyllic” will never cross either of our lips again when describing a rural lifestyle. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy re-reading my favorite parts: the parade permit that wasted 300 pounds of lobster;  the day she forgot the historical society was taking a house tour and started cleaning the chicken coup; and yes, the Gas Pump Incident. (Read it and weep with laughter.)

That parade permit chapter, for anyone who has ever lived in a small town, is about the funniest thing on record describing what this “simple” local government activity is like. See Big Stone Celtic’s page on Facebook. We go through this every year.

Next time I’m in Vermont (which will be the first time) I’ll look up Stimson, take her to lunch in a secluded place where no one can hear us, and compare notes. I suspect we will laugh ourselves into comas.


Filed under book reviews, bookstore management, Life reflections, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized, writing

5 responses to “The Monday Book: MUD SEASON, by Ellen Stimson

  1. I really enjoyed this too. I can understand why you want to meet her. She sounds like such a crazy, fun person. Wendy, have you read The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer Purcell? Josh is one half of the Fabulous Beekman Boys.

    • I haven’t. Is it engaging? The title sounds kinda…. downer-esque?

      • Josh was an ad exec in NYC. His partner, Brent is an MD who was also Martha Stewarts medical advisor. They took a weekend drive and ended up buying the Beekman Estate in Sharon Springs, NY. Bad timing, it was Fall of ’08. Brent moves to the farm full time. Josh gets a new ad job and they pour every dime and every second into making it a working farm/estate.
        Their goat cheese is Blaaak. They have tons of products now and a huge following, a store, and are credited with revitalizing their town.
        I have now told you more than you ever wanted to know! 2 more things: they won The Amazing Race 2 seasons ago in an EPIC upset.
        Also, I read The Bucolic Plague, loved it and read Josh’s first memoir next, I’m Not Myself These Days. I finished one night but stayed up the whole night greatly disturbed by what I’d read. I wrote him an email the next day and he was so nice to write back and discuss…… I don’t know how he lived through memoir #1. I also questioned whether I was a homophobe and didn’t know it. We both determined that no, I’m just a concerned mom.

  2. The Bucolic Plague is awesome. I happened to be reading it at a conference when I had a roommate. I had to stop reading one night because I was laughing so hard and I was worried about waking up my roommate. Also, I agree–I’m Not Myself These Days is hilarious in a horrifying and crazy way. His lifestyle before he met Brent was appalling. But, he is such a good writer I was able to get through it where in the hands of any other writer I would have thrown the book across the room.

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