Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A Country Year: Living the Questions by Sue Hubbell

When Sue Hubbell wrote her first book A Country Year: Living the Questions, she had been living on her farm in the Missouri Ozarks for twelve years. Her husband had been gone five years, and she had mastered beekeeping and become an adept naturalist. When not working with her bees and their hives, she was observing plants and creatures around her. Nothing missed her notice; in her essays, she wrote about opossums, coyotes, a variety of snakes, wild orchids, brown recluse spiders, cedar waxwings, house termites, wild roses, bobcats, her dogs, and honey bees. Unlike many of her neighbors, she enjoyed and tolerated the wildlife, even the species with bad reputations.

Though she spent much of her time alone, Hubbell was not a hermit in the Thoreau tradition. Frequently she visited her local junkyard man to find parts for her old truck that she had named Press On Regardless. She winched the mail truck out of the mud. She invited area beekeepers to an annual party on her farm. She gave her old tractor to a neighbor on the condition he maintain it and mow her brush. She opened her doors and heart to the VFW members who witnessed a friend's suicide at the local picnic grounds.

A Country Year has become a classic on rural living. It is more down-to-earth than Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Readers who enjoy Jane Brox's Here and Nowhere Else will enjoy its sense of place. It appears to be the most popular of Hubbell's books, if you measure by copies owned by Library Thing members, who give it a high reading rating (see chart above).

Listening to A Country Year on compact discs is a good choice while tending your garden.

Hubbell, Sue. A Country Year: Living the Questions. New York: Random House, 1986. ISBN 0394546032

5 Compact Discs. Charlotte Hall, MD : Recorded Books, p1989. ISBN 1419321323

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