The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love

It’s taking me a little longer to get through my current book than I had expected, so I thought I might bridge the gap with another previously-written review.

I have hesitated to include this review on my blog, because it is a controversial opinion of a generally well-liked book.  I decided to include it because I think it’s a good thing to show a little bit more of my passionate side once in a while than my typically mellow reviews reveal.

The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball was a good book, ultimately.  I wavered on my choice of star rating for the book, wanting to give it a 3 1/2 out of 5, but unable to with GoodReads’ rating format.  I ended up giving it 3.  I had high hopes for the book because of my (and my husband’s) homesteading dream, but this was no Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  Some farming books are just better than others.  (Don’t even get me started on Hit by a Farm.)  Anyway, here’s what I had to say about The Dirty Life:

This was well-written enough to warrant 4 stars, but I just didn’t enjoy it that much. The author does not portray herself in a way that garners much sympathy, and somehow manages to go for pages and pages without mentioning the man who got her into farming and with whom she claims to be madly in love. The whole book is meant to be a dual love story, love of the man and of the farm; the man, however, seems to be a minor character, which was disappointing, since I found him to be quite likable and intriguing.

This book was absolutely interesting and entertaining, and I quite enjoyed the information and anecdotes about the plants and the cultivation of the land. On the other hand, while this might have been eye-opening to some, it was difficult for me (being vegan) to stomach reading about the callousness and various cruelties that go along with animal farming, most of which I was already too aware of, and which I didn’t enjoy revisiting.

While I can see how perhaps reading about these things in such graphic detail might provoke some readers to reconsider the systems that they take for granted or don’t look too closely at, it’s frustrating to read about someone learning of these practices and gamely participating in them despite their initial revulsion or reservations (especially someone who claims to have previously been a vegetarian).

I’m not trying to preach here, and I realize I’m coming from a place of rather fringe sentiment, but my veganism is an important part of my life, and thus is a huge part of what I bring to the table when I read any book. It wouldn’t feel right to talk about this book and omit my most fundamental reactions to it.

The “yes, it’s actually a bit awful, but that’s the way things are” mentality saddens me, since I know it’s not the way things must be. The couple in this book do all sorts of zany, off-beat, retro things to go back to a simpler way of being and to attempt to provide a “full diet” for their CSA customers… which, unfortunately, they see as necessarily including a large quantity of various meats and other animal products.

So, while this book was in many ways about overturning a status quo or two, there are also some threads woven through the book that are strongly supporting (unwittingly or not) a very different kind of status quo.


About Elizabeth M. Lee

I love to read, write, and take nature photos. I do other stuff, too.
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2 Responses to The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love

  1. I just finished Melissa Coleman’s (Eliot Coleman’s daughter) memoir. Somehow I didn’t realize who she was until I was a few pages into the book and she mentioned her father by name.

    It’s a sad story. But beautifully written. Not a particularly flattering portrait of Eliot Coleman… I (and probably a lot of other people) had thought of him as living in some kind of ideal-holistic-organic-otherworldly-bubble.

    • I’ve actually never heard of either of the two Colemans, but the book looks quite interesting. I’m willing to deal with sad if it’s well-written. Thank you for mentioning it – I’ll add it to the to-read list.

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