Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl delivers a treat as delicious as oatmeal cookies hot out of the oven – a memoir of a happy childhood. In charming and memorable vignettes, Carol Bodensteiner captures rural life in middle America, in the middle of the 20th Century. In these pages you can step back and relish a time simple but not easy, a time innocent yet challenging.
(Image and synopsis via Goodreads)
I have only to close my eyes and breathe in to remember the smell of a field of new-mown hay, flex my fingers to remember the feel of a calf sucking as it learned to drink, open my ears to the sound of my mother smoothing over a cooking mistake. Then I remember my dad sitting on the feedbox petting a yellow tomcat and I want to go sit by him again and talk about the work that has yet to be done. (Epilogue, Loc. 2921, Kindle version)
For some 33 years now, I have listened to my husband and his siblings reminisce over memories of their growing up on a cattle farm in the Yakima Valley of Washington state. I often wondered if their experiences were unique.
You see, I grew up a city girl in Nashville, TN, a far cry from Iowa or Washington. My memory banks hold no recollection of ever setting foot on a dairy farm during my childhood or even as an adult.
To date, I have taken my acquired family’s stories at face value, believing each farm would have its own unique set of stories with no semblance to another farm family’s set of stories.
Carol Bodensteiner, in sharing her memories in this charming memoir, Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl, has proven me wrong. So wrong in fact I was guilty of running to my husband and suggesting he remember a certain story about calving or planting or haying and then reading aloud to him Carol’s story of similar experiences.
Carol’s gift of storytelling is rich, distinct, and nourished with truth. Each vignette she shares draws the reader in to experience it with Carol, her sisters, and their folks. Whether it is a family or farm story, a story drawn from community at school or church, or a story of certain relatives or friends, a tapestry of a simpler life on the farm when time moved more slowly and memories were more easily cherished is woven thread-by-thread until you feel transported to the Bodensteiner farm.
This isn’t to say that growing up on the farm was always easy for the Bodensteiner girls. Carol shares easily the difficult times as well as the good. She does not shy away from letting her reader know that life was not always smooth, losses were hard, and the weather could change the success of a crop or the success of a cow giving birth to a healthy calf.
Carol ended her epilogue with the quote shared above, but I have another favorite that speaks clearly to the writer’s ability to draw in her reader. It is found in the prologue:
This land of my childhood releases sweet, long forgotten memories and brings me back home. Home to the farm. Home to my family. Home. (Prologue, p. 3, Kindle version)
What reader would not want to turn the page to explore this farm, meet this family, and discover home?
Fans of memoir, farms and farming, simpler times, and stronger community will fall in love with Carol Bodensteiner’s Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl. Each chapter or vignette can stand alone, and I think they would be lovely read aloud to children teaching them of a disappearing lifestyle on which our country once depended upon.
Meet the Author:
I’m a writer inspired by the people, places and culture of the Midwest.
In my memoir, “Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl,” I share stories about growing up in the middle of the United States, in the middle of the 20th Century, a way of farm life that is rapidly disappearing from the American landscape.
“Go Away Home” – my World War One-era novel published in 2014, tells the story of a young woman who wants to make her own decisions and decide her own future at a time when rural women saw limited options. As she pursues her dream, she comes to realize that to get what you want, you often have to give up something else you want just as much. GO AWAY HOME is a SILVER MEDAL winner in the Historical Fiction – Personage category of the Readers’ Favorite International Award competition.
I am privileged to have my writing included in a number of anthologies.
You can also find me here:
Website & blog – www.carolbodensteiner.com
Twitter – @CABodensteiner
Facebook – facebook.com/CarolBodensteinerAuthor
Goodreads – goodreads.com/author/Carol_Bodensteiner
Publisher: Rising Sun Press
Published: October 18, 2010
Paperback and e-book available
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I am familiar with Carol’s work, particularly Growing Up Country, which I quoted from in an earlier blog post: http://plainandfancygirl.com/2014/07/12/laundry-at-the-longeneckers/
My early life was similar to hers, minus the cows. Carol’s artful use of dialogue drew me into the story immediately. All, a breath of fresh air. Thanks for featuring Carol on your blog today, Sherrey.
Marian, I thought of so many of my writing friends who had the joy of simple farm life, including you and Shirley, as I read Carol’s book. She writes her memories with charm and wit and yes, the dialogue was a winning ingredient.
I too love Carol’s book, and you picked out two wonderful passages from it, Sherrey. Excellent review as always. I feel fortunate to be writing with friends about memories that connect us to faith, family, and land. And what a pleasure that I have now met all of you in this thread in person! It was wonderful to read with Carol at Prairie Lights bookstore a few weeks ago.
Shirley, thank you so much for stopping by to become a part of this discussion. I am blessed by the number among us writing about faith, family, and land. How great that you’ve had the opportunity to meet so many of our community.
Thanks for offering such a wonderful review of my memoir, Sherry. Finding that my stories mirror the lives of others who grew up in rural areas is a continual delight.
Carol, it is not difficult to write a review of any book as well done as yours. And I had so much fun reading excerpts to my hubby!
Sherrey, this is a lovely review of a lovely memoir. Carol’s ability to bring us all into her daily life on the farm is impressive. I thoroughly enjoyed GROWING UP COUNTRY. Those everyday stories hold such appeal.
Kathy, there were times in Carol’s memoir I felt as though I was right there with her birthing the cow with her dad, baking with her mom, walking to school, and more. I do hope young families pick up this book and read it to their children, who (like me) may never see or set foot on a farm.
Many thanks for reading, Kathy. I’m glad you enjoyed the stories.
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