A book by Josh Kilmer-purcell< read all 5 reviews
As a fan of Planet Green’s The Fabulous Beekman Boys, I was delighted to receive Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s The Bucolic Plague as a birthday gift. Two days ago. Which means, like most of the other reviewers who posted, I finished the book in about a day. It’s a compelling story that urges the reader to go "just one more" short chapter with a lick and a promise to put the book down and turn out the light after that. The writing is clean, smooth and sparkles with detail without being fussy.
Josh, a New York marketing "Creative" and his spouse, Dr. Brent Ridge, discover a refurbished historic mansion on a weekend jaunt in upstate New York. Envisioning a pastoral getaway for themselves to rival a Martha Stewart magazine layout, they purchase the picturesque home and 60 acre farm in a fit of whimsy, unbridled optimism, and a dash of luck in the form of an accepted lowball bid. They are familiar with the prototype since Brent is Martha Stewart’s wellness advisor, "Dr. Brent," and attendee/victim at Martha’s aesthetically perfect but anesthetically stifling social soirées.
The couple launches their weekend life in the little town of Sharon Springs, New York, a village that had once been a major spa center and now is sufficiently forgotten that it does not appear on a GPS. Behind the facade of vacant buildings, Josh and Brent find a cast of warm and quirky residents. Adding Farmer John and his herd of goats, a huge garden of heirloom vegetables, a never-ending list of farm chores, pressures from their "day jobs" in the city and mounting relationship issues, the pair has more than enough on their artisanal vegetable and cheese plates. What do they do to balance themselves? They start an additional business selling goat milk soap, of course. And then the economy goes south, taking their jobs and what little Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm enthusiasm that they had left.
Martha flies in an out of this chronicle of rural Oz on both her bubble and her broomstick as an alternating Good Witch and Wicked Witch, providing an example of what can go wrong when exquisite taste lives hand in hand with exquisite marketing.
The television show is a combination gay Green Acres and The Odd Couple. That sounds ghastly but it somehow manages to be sweet and charming. The book’s Brent is more capable and less Felix-like, while Josh is both more and less superficial than his digital counterpart. Of course, it’s his memoir and he can see himself anyway he likes.
More than anything, this is a story of middle-aged angst and transition, surprisingly relatable to those of us still wondering what we want to be when and if we grow up — even if we don’t go out on a limb to buy a mansion and grow two dozen varieties of heirloom tomatoes.
Like the true ad man that Josh eventually recognizes himself to be, he summarizes, "Truth isn’t beauty. It isn’t even always true. Truth is nothing more than consistency of message." So, is the book closer to the real story than the television show? Undoubtedly. Is it reality? Kilmer-Purcell notes "there is no one story about anything that happens in the world." Whichever one of the many this is, it’s a good one.
As this is Kilmer-Purcell’s second memoir, I suspect he has at least one more in him. I can’t wait.
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