Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tiny Farm Update and a Book Review: Impatient With Desire

   Happy Wednesday to all! Today I have good stuff to share. Mostly, an excellent book recommendation. Scroll down for that. And? It occurred to me that in the midst of the tornado news I have been remiss in mentioning here on the blog some very, very happy news. How embarrassing! If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram then you already know that Handsome and I are enjoying the company of an adorable brand spankin' new baby llama! Yep, Seraphine finally delivered her cria exactly thirteen days ago. The baby is a little girl and is healthy and happy, growing by the hour it seems. We have named her Dulcinea del Toboso, after Don Quixote's fabled love interest and muse, but we affectionately call her Little Bit. I am pretty sure my husband has lost his big heart to this sweet little creature, and I am totally okay with that. You should see them play together.

She is the most precious thing that has ever walked on four llama hooves.

   Now... Another book review. I gobbled up this volume two weekends ago, right before the tornadoes, and really, really, really want you to read it. Really. Okay? Okay, here we go.

   First, just take a quick look-see at this cover art and make a mental note of what you think this book is about. Maybe go ahead and scribble your quickest impressions on a piece of scrap paper, also noting whether it is a book you would choose to read. Be honest.

Impatient With Desire by Gabrielle Burton, Published by Rare Bird Books

   What was your immediate reaction? I am so curious about this. Despite the fact that we all grew up hearing, "Never judge a book by its cover," I pretty much judged this little book by its cover. Harshly. And I let it languish on my dusty shelves for over a year. Neglected, shunned, unread because I thought it was a Puritan romance or something. Not my groove, man.

   How wrong I was. Luckily one recent weekend I possessed the presence of mind to actually read the story description and was immediately hooked. I plunged right in on Saturday morning, consuming a third of the story before coming up for air. Then that Sunday night I woke suddenly at 2 am, eyes unable to even blink shut, and realized I was desperate to finish the book. I crept downstairs and did so, and now I have that settled, satisfied, wonderful feeling. I want you to have this feeling too.

   I want YOU to read THIS BOOK. It is so short and so well written that you can tackle it in one average airplane ride. Or two afternoons on a lounge chair. Or three sleepless night.

   What is it about, you ask? The Donner party. You know who I'm talking about. The band of American pioneers in the mid 1800's who headed west toward California? The ones who got stuck in the snowy mountains? The group rumored to have survived by cannibalism???

   Now you're with me.

   Yes, I do feel a little bad sensationalizing this book review, but the truth is that most people probably identify the Donner party with cannibalism. It's just how our culture works. The delicious surprise here (sorry, couldn't resist) is that Impatient With Desire serves up (I really can't stop) a slow, tortuous, truly moving insight to the human experiences of starvation, isolation, hope, fear, faith, commitment, survival, and, of course, death. It really is the Donner party story like you have never heard it. Not even the History channel on its best, most creative day can grip your heart like Burton has done with this artistic and believable story.

   Burton writes in a journal format, in the voice of one woman exclusively, Mrs. Tamsen Donner. The leader's wife. Scrap all preconceived notions you might already have about this woman and prepare yourself to want to know more about her than one book can offer. It is so good. Also, just accept that all conversations you have so far had regarding cannibalism and your personal tipping points, morality, situational ethics, etc, etc... are tainted by lofty ideas and a cruel disconnect from the realities of hunger that abject.

   Then read this book.
   And discuss it all over again with smart people who have also read it.

"I used to argue that we can improve on nature, 
or at least not be as brutal as nature. 
I don't have the luxury of theoretical debates anymore, 
nor am I as sentimental as I once was." 
~Tamsen Donner, letter to her sister. 

   Much worse than judging books by their covers is the crime of judging people who have faced things we have never even imagined.

   Aside from the obvious themes, something lovely ran through the book consistently and caught my attention. It was Mrs. Donner's mantra that, "We all came here strangers to ourselves." Tamsen Donner said this repeatedly, her own understanding deepening each time, and it made more and more sense to me too. How often do we learn about our own hearts through trials? How true is it that while living life we learn about ourselves as much as or maybe more than we learn about the world?

   Many other, skinnier threads are up for grabs, too. Skinny threads, but not delicate. This book is short but packed with life.

  • Patriotism and adventure...
  • Early American feminism (the Donner marriage was fascinating)...
  • The concept that a family is raised by community and not one parent... 
  • How do we view animals? Pets, workers, food... And how do we honor them? 
  • The importance of contemporaneous journalling... (I plan to blog about this very thing soon. It's cropping up everywhere I look!)
  • How dangerously and wonderfully our moods can affect each other, especially in relationships like marriage and especially in close physical quarters...
  • Regret, purpose, hindsight, the limited power of our own lessons learned to help others...
  • The intrinsic value of physical labor...
  • Also the intrinsic value of routine, schedules, and structure to combat mental fatigue...
  • Life cycles and poetry...
  • Religion, proselytizing, and cultural respect...
  • The societal value of ceremony, the luxury of it, and the power of a well written obituary...
  • The complexities of acts of faith...
  • What life do we bring to a home? What actual contributions do each of us make?
  • You cannot escape yourself simply by relocating.
  • Which are you, at heart: a keeper of the home or an adventurer? Does your life reflect this truth?
  • ...and so very many other insights to human nature, both the beautiful and the abhorrent.

   Whew! Like I said, this book is short but powerful. The author achieved something wonderful here, and I sure hope you take time to absorb and enjoy it.

My friends have sweet hook ups.

   Bonus announcement: My friend Julia with the sweet literary hook ups is who gifted me this book in the first place. She has recently intimated that I stand a pretty decent chance of meeting and interviewing the author.

   You guys. This is my favorite thing ever, meeting and interviewing authors of excellent books like this. I will of course keep you posted.

   In closing, a community question: If Gabrielle Burton visits the Lazy W, what should I serve? Steak tartare?

Read books! 
Read All the Books!!



  1. Little Bit, is quiet a gal I see. How could you not like those fascinating ears?! When I look at her, it makes me giggle. I have a feeling she is going to dominate the attention for a while at The Lazy W. Your father in law was quiet smitten with her, telling me every detail about her. Have fun with her !

  2. Dear Marie,
    I just read your review of my book, Impatient with Desire. What can I say to such warm generous words except Thank you. All writers long for thoughtful insightful readers, and they couldn't find better than you. I very much appreciate your support and your bringing Tamsen Donner to a wider audience.
    All best,
    Gabrielle Burton
    PS When is this interview going to happen?


Hey thanks for commenting! I love hearing from people. It's the best. I have recently added word verification, a necessary annoyance. Have a wonderful day!


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