Monday, September 29, 2014

Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad Through the Wild by Novella Carpenter

In Farm City, Novella Carpenter showed us her life as a counter-culture innovator farming without permission on a vacant lot in Oakland, California. She cleared broken glass and other rubble, built beds, and improved the soil. Not satisfied to raise only crops, she acquired small varieties of livestock, such as turkeys, goats, rabbits, and pigs. Of course, pigs don't stay small, and because of her limited capital, she resorted to dumpster diving to help feed the pigs. In her new memoir Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad Through the Wild, Carpenter tells a very personal story about trying to find and reconnect with her sometimes-missing father, a story which also partly explains how she became an urban farmer.

Like mother like daughter or like father like daughter? Carpenter reports how she spent several years trying to determine from whom she got her values and why she acts the way she does. She wanted to sit down and talk heart-to-heart with her backwoods-wandering dad, who is not the sitting or talking type. She recounts several difficult trips to Idaho reel him in.

Besides Carpenter and her father, the other major characters in the story are:
  • her mother, who left her father in the 1970s and has an extensive garden and orchard
  • her sister, who shared many wild backwoods adventures as well as juvenile shoplifting with the author
  • her boyfriend, her partner in dumpster diving, a mechanic who embraces the garden and barter economy as much as the author
Gone Feral is quirky story about independent people trying to be family. While it is quite entertaining, it both questions and reaffirms family values, though some readers may not see this. I also enjoyed the quick scenes in the public library in Orofino, Idaho and liked this passage in the Epilogue:
"When Riana hasn't heard from Dad in awhile, she starts to worry. Then she calls the library in Orofino. The librarians there are exceedingly kind, and happy to give her the Dad report."
With offbeat memoirs so popular, Gone Feral should have a large and happy audience.

Carpenter, Novella. Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad Through the Wild. Penguin Press, 2014. 212p. ISBN 9781594204432.


Anonymous said...

This memoir sound terrible, no need to celebrate the destruction of the family unit. Additionally I find it revolting that librarians in Idaho would give her an update on her fathers activities - I suppose they do not care about breaching patron confidentiality.

ricklibrarian said...

Carpenter is not celebrating destruction of our family. She is trying to reconnect.

As for patron confidentiality, reporting that a member of the family was in the library. When a parent calls and asks whether a child is there, we will look.