This is the book for you if you like:
- Organic farming
- Books about grief
- Love stories that aren’t about romance
Summary: (from author’s website)
Anna Broxton’s marriage to the top Tommy John surgeon in the West and their idyllic ranch life in the Flathead Valley of Montana makes most women envy her. That is, until one simple moment changes her family forever.
Unable to bear the presence of her once adored husband, she abandons her life and finds "her nowhere" a small organic farm on the Southern tip of Sweden. There, she tills the soil, plants seeds, learns to pickle cucumbers, and fights her attraction to a younger man.
Her unlikely friendships with two unique women awaken her to suffering other than her own and help her face her part in the tragedy. She returns home to find her husband has found his own nowhere and must fight for whatever love remains in the gaps of their shattered family.
Her Nowhere is a tearjerker about relationships and what they can survive—if we let them. It is appropriate for book club discussion about our own unique tragedies, how we respond to them, how they shape us, humanitarianism, organic farming, and the imperfection of motherhood.
The simple, true work of hand weeding a pre-irrigated crop was a salve; the kind that covered so thick the wound seemed to disappear.
Why did I read this book?
I once downloaded this book while it was free on Amazon, because I thought the synopsis sounded like the kind of story I like: women who forge unlikely friendships and from them, grow and heal. The cover itself gave that same kind of message, of beauty found in dirt. The title implies a story about being lost, and that’s always a sentiment I like to read about.
Anna got on my nerves so much. She is so incredibly self-centred. I can’t fault her for running away when her life fell apart; that made sense. But even when she was getting better, when she was healing, when she set out to try and get back the life she’d lost, she still only thought of her own pain, her own tragedy. And when she’s looking to others, it’s with so much judgement in her eyes.
I liked a lot of the side characters, though. Lena’s quiet strength and Clara’s youthful resilience really made the first parts of the book for me. I would have loved a story about either of them, instead of the story we got. Seriously, I wanted to know all about Lena from the very first time we met her. And even though we got snippets of her story, kind of the CliffsNotes version, I wanted a book about her.
Kai, her husband – whose name means ‘rejoice’, which I like for the irony, since in this story he’s really a source of pain – didn’t really make enough of an appearance for me to form an opinion of him. Even through Anna’s eyes he was quite nondescript.
The first four parts of the story (taking up about six months) takes place in a small farm in Sweden, kind of sheltered away from the real world. It’s a place Anna needed to gather her bearings, and it’s a place that had a huge impact on the story. After a short interlude in the United States, the sixth part and the small epilogue takes place in Honduras. The entire story, including the epilogue, takes up about 14 months.
This is a story about how organic farming saved the world.
Wait. It isn’t?
While holding the soil in my hands, I yearned to get closer to it, to let it soak into me. I glanced around and then made my body prostrate in the soil, settling the right side of my face to the earth. I pulled my shirt up and let the coolness touch my belly. It felt like life to me. It was malleable, forming to the contours of my face. There was something comforting about the act. Perhaps because I knew there was life in the soil, that it contained organic properties of living matter, that it was filled with microbes and nutrients that nourished life and growth.
According to the "Book Group Discussion Questions", this is essentially a love story. I guess in a way it is true; through the people around her, Anna has to learn how to love herself again, and how to carve a place into her life for the husband she’s left behind but still loves. But that story got buried deep underneath a layer of ever returning praise of organic farming, and it kept me from connecting to it. It wasn’t, excuse the pun, included organically in the story at all; instead, it felt like organic farming propaganda. It started to really irritate me after a while.
I caught Lena watching [Torbjorn], a smile in her eyes. She was admiring him, loving him.
I gasped and eyes turned to me. I shook my head. The look in her eyes was what got me.
Granted, it wasn’t just the organic farming. I think parts of what kept me at a distance was the way the book is written. It’s all very clinical, very detached. Plus there is a huge emphasis on people’s looks – from Kai telling her that if she had been ugly, he wouldn’t have agreed to help her, to Anna commenting on her mom’s ‘lovely figure’.
And there was an undercurrent of racism that made me very uncomfortable. At one point, she talks with a guy on the phone, and she “imagined he was a big, black man” (…what?), a woman who won’t listen to her must be ignoring her because “she appeared to be very white, very English speaking”, and of course the one absolute villain in the story is “a large man who looked Samoan, with black eyes and a shaved head”. Stereotypes abound all over, such as the Irish guy on the farm who calls her “lass” every other sentence.
Looking forward had become as painful as looking back.
It’s unfortunate, because the story itself was interesting! Seeing someone crawl back from the depths of despair, especially in a way that isn’t instantaneous or sudden or saved by romantic love, is a great story. Her background slowly unfolds through flashbacks and memories, but I’m glad they didn’t take up the biggest part of her story. Her journey from where she came to where she’s going, that’s the interesting bit.
My favourite part was the fourth part, at which point we are allowed to know what happened – it got annoying that she kept it hidden away, as if the tragedy she’d survived didn’t scream at you from the very first chapter – and she’s starting to look to the future. I think this was the most healing part; after this, she’s just scrambling to get her old life back, as if she was the only one who had to change and leave something behind.
Will I read other books from this author?
Overall rating: 2/5