Monday, October 17, 2016

Book Review: The Waiting Place by Sharron Arksey

I did receive a free copy of this book, but all ides and thoughts are my own.

She had me on page 5 with words that echo the unofficial 11th Commandment at our house:

      "Never come to town without a list of things to pick up.  If you have to take the time and use the money up on gas, you have to make it worth your while."

Those words told me that Susan Davidson, the main character in Sharron Arksey's new novel, The Waiting Place, spoke with an understanding of the rural life I and many of you, my dear Peeps, know all too well.  Sharron's characters speak our language, ladies and gents.  She knows about rural living, about the highs and lows of raising livestock.   The voices of Susan, Susan's mom, Sandra, and her mother-in-law, Joan, tell of experiences, loneliness, and love of their men and echo many of the same scenes that we women play out in our own lives out here in the country.

I don't know if we all have similar lives or the world is full of coincidence, but I found myself in so many of the characters' words.  Set in Manitoba Canada, this story is about Susan as she awaits the impending arrival of her first child. There are ten chapters, and each chapter starting with her dilating 1 cm.  As she goes through the changes in her body toward birth, she introduces us to her husband Glen, her parents Sandra and Dave, her in-laws, Joan and Joe, and siblings along the way.  The perspective is predominately feminine, and it revolves around this lovely circle of life we lead and how we often find ourselves in The Waiting Place.  s

Let's dig into this story a bit.  The first similarity I found is that Susan lives in the house her in-laws lived in.  BINGO!!!  I live in the house that Steve has never left!  His parents lived here before us, and both sets of his grandparents lived in this house, at different times.  It is a natural progression that many established farm families pass down a home.  The "farm house" is usually central to our operations, and it makes good sense for the farm family to live there.

Susan's mom likes to go for walks in the country for the same reasons I do......

     "I like to go for walks in the early evening.  Not necessarily for the exercise....More for the solitude.  Thinking time, I call it.  Although I don't spend much time thinking.  I just walk, senses soaking in the sky and the ground and the space between.  The silence is a comfort, rather than a void that needs filling."  (p.51)

Love the walks I used to take here.   I haven't been able too lately due to crazy schedules and crazy knees that are headed out of their warranty period.  We all could do with a bit more silence and less noise right?

Another part of this family story that hits home is the frank discussion of life on the farm.  From death and taxes to trying to make a living at the mercy of weather and stock markets and global economics, readers unfamiliar with farming will learn some very hard truths:

About the control we have in our livelihood:

     "The weather is the predominant factor in the quality and quantity of our product and we have no control of the price of the product we do have for sale.  Those prices fluctuate from week to week and are influence by everything from politics to the price of rice in China." (p.81)

About raising cattle in a fluctuating market:

     " The last decade has been hard on cattle producers and many have sold their herd.  They've given up....On the other hand, if we keep our herd or add to it, we get called everything from methane gas production to e-coli contamination.  Damned if we do and damned if we don't." (p.103)

We have down-sized our herd these last few years from about 150 head of feeder cattle to no more than 40-50.  Prices have fluctuated from $1.62 a pound to $1.20 a pound for our beef while feed costs have been steady or slightly raised.

One of the most profound statements I found in the middle of a conversation between Susan and her mother, Sandra.  Sandra has decided to go back to University to enroll in Women's Studies, and Susan asks her how it is going being back on campus.  In the midst of her answer about living on campus among the city people , Sandra says,

     " 'I'd forgotten how city people think of us,' she added.
     [Susan replies] 'They don't think of at all.'
     [Sandra replies] 'You'r right Susan. They don't.' "  (p.108)

This is the main reason I and many of my friends started our blogging group so many years ago.  We want to bridge this disconnect between farmers and those who have moved away from the farm. Through sharing recipes, photography tips, storied from the farm, and Q & A posts we try to connect with our customers, our neighbors, our friends who are 3-4 generations removed from the farm.  It's very important that you think of us on the farm.  I know we think of those who don't quite a bit.

From the snippets I have shared, I hope you understand why Sharron Arksey's story strikes such a deep cord within me.  I promise I haven't revealed too much.  There are other arcs in the story, and by the end there is a baby and another new life to share the family farm experiences.  Will this child grow to love the farm and stay to care on the family business, or will this child find life off the farm more inviting.  It's a question all farming couples wonder about as a new life arrives.

If you are intrigued about this novel, you can by clicking on the book's picture below.  If you are feeling lucky, please leave a comment at the end of the post and enter a giveaway for a copy of The Waiting Place.  I will announce the winner on Friday.  Tell me if you farm or have a family farm and if you have any questions about our farm operation.

 A Waiting Place by Sharron Arkeey

Until next time Peeps, have a wonderful day
and try to make a positive difference
in someone else's life!


  1. I've been wanting to read this! Thanks for urging me on.

  2. Hi Lana, this book sounds very good. I raise sheep but had no farm experience prior to buying my farm. The ebb and flow of planting and harvesting is fascinating to me. Carol