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Book Reviews

The Woefield Poultry Collective

by Susan Juby

Popular YA author Susan Juby takes a very, very small step into adult fiction with this simple, good-natured story of a young woman who leaves the big city to run a Vancouver Island farm.

Four characters dominate the narrative. The virtuous and unflappable Prudence is the new owner, obviously in over her head but determined to make a go of things and save the farm from foreclosure. She is aided by Seth, an alcoholic shut-in blogger (is there any other kind?); Earl, a crotchety old farmhand who plays bluegrass and passes along nuggets of wisdom like “[it] don’t pay to ask questions about things that is none of your business”; and Sara Spratt, an adorably plucky tyke from a broken home.

The character types and basic story elements will be familiar to fans of Dan Needle’s Wingfield plays. Juby includes comic set pieces involving a dysfunctional creative writing group (is there any other kind?), Sara’s prize chickens, and Prudence’s attempt to rebrand the farm as a drug rehab centre. There is also a romantic subplot involving Prudence and a preternaturally handsome young veterinarian (is there any other kind?). Much humorous chaos ensues, but rest assured, things work out in the end.

It’s hard to really dislike a book that is so determined to charm, and so obvious in going about it. Juby’s novel contents itself with telling a sweet, heartwarming story in a fully transparent and unsophisticated way. As befits its gentle satire, there are few belly laughs but plenty of smiles.