A Country Year Summary
by Sue Hubbell

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A Country Year

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

A COUNTRY YEAR begins and ends with the Spring. We follow Hubbell throughout the year as she lives in a manner dramatically different from her former career as wife, mother, and academic librarian. Fifty years old, divorced and with a grown son, she finds herself the only human inhabitant on a peninsula abutted by two rivers. She acknowledges that beekeeping is physically taxing, emotionally draining, and only provides a living at the poverty level. But the work allows Hubbell to remain in the Ozarks, on land so beautiful that she wept when she first saw it.

Hubbell has a genuine knack for conveying the mundane satisfactions that day-to-day living on a small farm offers. We share her pride as she tinkers with her archaic pickup truck “Press on Regardless,” singlehandedly shingles a barn, and manipulates a chainsaw as she lays in a winter’s supply of wood. The descriptions of beekeeping--whether the capturing of a wild swarm or the collecting of honey-- are entrancing and meticulous. Still, A COUNTRY YEAR offers much more than the run-of-the-mill “how-to-live-in-the-country” manual.

As the title indicates, Hubbell has been “living the questions” most of us never even ask. A strong connection to the land, people, and wild things of the Ozarks infuses Hubbell’s writing with a unique passion. Through her eyes, we watch birds, track a wild animal through a December snowfall, and grow fascinated by the daily habits of bees, bats, moths, and caterpillars. Readers will end the journal enriched by Hubbell’s generous observations of the natural world; many will come to care deeply for this odd, unconventional, and courageous woman and to respect the harsh, lovely life she has fashioned for herself in the Ozarks.