A Country Year: Living the Questions
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A Country Year: Living the Questions

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  836 ratings  ·  149 reviews

When her thirty-year marriage broke up, Sue Hubbell found herself alone and broke on a small Ozarks farm. Keeping bees, she found solace in the natural world. She began to write, challenging herself to tell the absolute truth about her life and the things that she cared about. The result is one of the best-loved books ever written about life on the land, about a woman find

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Paperback, 221 pages
Published April 1st 1987 by Harper Perennial (first published 1986)
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Guy
When reading "A Country Year" I was continually reminded of Oscar Wilde's apology for sending a long letter -- he did not have time to write a short one. Sue Hubbell has taken the time to write a short book filled with concise gems, each as long as it should be and no longer, and I am much the richer for having read it.

Other than the transcendent writing, what impressed me most was Sue's eye and mind. She notices things that I would not, and then she reflects upon them and understands them bette...more
Cheryl
This is one of my favorite books of all time. I have reread it countless times because Hubbell's memoir of her life in the midst of nature in rural Missouri never fails to transport me away and bring my mind back refreshed and see the natural world in whatever less-than-idyllic place I'm living. Her work really reminds me to be aware of all the creatures and plants around me and notice how they "make a living" and interact with the human world. And her insights on how to live the questions of li...more
Barbara Nourse
Sue Hubbell writes a series of stories about her life from spring to spring in the mountains of the Ozarks in Southern Missouri. Her husband of 30 years has just left for the last time. They had started a business as bee keepers. That becomes her only source of income as she makes a living, barely, harvesting and selling her honey. Her stories are about her life on the land. And they are amazing! She is a careful observer of all the natural world that surrounds her. The stories also give an insi...more
Sarah
After a really long or really magnificent book, I always have to take a break and read something simple and easy. Wide line spacing, 6th grade vocabulary, no more than 200 pages. It’s like a palate cleanser for the brain. That’s what this book was— the crackers to my wine. And thank goodness for that, because I was barely upset by its mediocrity.

I’ve read a lot of books about lives in seclusion (mostly because I plan to spend my retirement years as a mountain-bound recluse and am preparing myse...more
Eric_W
Sue Hubbell, author of A Book of Bees And How to Keep Them- a delightful book which has as much to do with naturalism and our place in nature as it does about bees -- lives in the Ozark mountains on some 95-100 acres where she maintains 300 beehives throughout the surrounding hills.

She writes extremely well, and in this book she reflects on nature's intricacies and "queerness" and man's place in the world. She (and the reader) become captivated by such oddities as the chigger whose chewing on t...more
jess
This is the story of a woman who lives in the Ozarks on a small farm. After a 30 year marriage, her husband leaves and she eeks out a difficult living keeping bees. The rural people of the Ozarks are her friends and occasionally her comrades, but mostly she is alone with her farm. It's almost a lie to say she lives alone. She has the dogs, and her cat (Black Edith. hello, awesome cat name), all of the bees, the coyotes, termites, copperheads, the goldfinches, indigo buntings, humming birds, blue...more
aBeiLLe
Un tout petit peu, mini de rien du tout déçue du style d’écriture se rapprochant plus de la rédaction d’un article que d’un roman. Ce n’est pas très littéraire. C’est plutôt une chronique, un genre de journal relatant une année dans la vie de Sue Hubbell, la Dame aux abeilles. Elle relate ses observations de la nature et de ses habitants. Elle nous raconte les difficultés de vivre seule au milieu de la nature, ses tâches quotidiennes, mais elle retrace surtout sa vie avec ses abeilles. Sue Hubbe...more
Amy Boetcher
I still have "Winter" to read yet, but I read the rest in less than two days. For the same reasons I like Chapter "November" in Sand County Almanac (Aldo Leopold), which I think are philosophical ones, I love the thoughts in this book. It's the thoughts that have captivated me, and I've been so absorbed in them that I haven't noticed if the writing is good or not (I'm assuming it is, because I haven't noticed it, like good movie music).

If I can find other books that make me this excited to read...more
Tara
A wonderfully slow read. Its wandering nature reminded me a bit of "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" by Dillard (my all-time favorite book).
It's a one time read, I think but definitely worth that one-time.
Side-note: I was worried it was going to be "about divorce" but that was not a big part of the book nor was it dealt with bitterly or awkwardly.
Telyn
Sue Hubble's reflections on life as a beekeeper in the Ozarks is quiet, introspective and tinged with an edge of melancholy. This book is not quite in the league with Edwin Way Teale's "A Walk Through the Year," or Henry Beston's "The Outermost House," but it is a well-written and interesting look at natural history—and human nature.
Jennifer
This personal memoir covers five seasons in the life of a 50-year old woman living alone in the Ozarks, raising bees, tending to her home and property, and observing the insects, spiders, birds, and mammals who make themselves at home on her acreage. She also discusses plants and plant life, as well as the habits and customs of the (human) locals. Though the writer is merely recounting her days, the book is a work of naturalist philosophy in the genre of Aldo Leopold, as she ties her observation...more
Nichole Beaulieu
Wonderful read. Short vignettes of life in the Ozarks and bee farming in easy to read chapters, each a couple of pages long. I enjoyed a chapter each morning on my train commute for pure escapism. A bit like eating comfort food before the fire. It’s a slow, savory read and should be taken how it’s written: in bite sized passages. I love titles like this which are more about the journey than the ending. Hubbell can write and her clear, easy voice is reassuring that the simple life still exists an...more
Lisa
This is a great little story of a strong willed woman seeking solace and comfort in the Ozark Mountains. Through her encounters I learned more nature science... bee keeping, plants, and spiders... were characters as much as the people in the story. Hubbell's writing evoked memories for me and I found myself scribbling such in the margins. When my sister came to visit she picked up the volume and thumbed through it. She had given it to me to read. She glanced through and said, "When you don't wan...more
Skostal
I picked up A Country Year to reread as a balm after finishing Sophie's Choice. Hubbell's calm, quiet, wise book outlines one of her first years alone on her Ozark farm after her marriage has disintegrated. She is a beekeeper, and writes lovingly of bees, insects, dogs, bats, birds, even chiggers. Like many mid-life crisis writers, she attempts to reconnect with the earth to find her own place in it, and does so quite successfully, both as a writer and a person. "Sometimes I wonder where we olde...more
Lindsay
Jan 24, 2008 Lindsay rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who has lived in Missouri, rural life, nature, Barbara Kingsolver fans
Recommended to Lindsay by: my 8th grade biology teacher!
When I ran into my 8th grade biology teacher about a month and a half ago (my favorite science teacher of all time, hands down), we naturally had a discussion combining the subjects that we teach: science and literature. Once we professed our mutual love for Barbara Kingsolver, she recommended Sue Hubbell to me.
What an awesome book. Maybe I appreciate it more because she reflects on life in the Ozarks and observes the flora and fauna I'm familiar with, but her calm and intriguing style is access...more
Jenn
These turn out to be collected pieces from various magazines, which gives a lot of the chapters a certain sameness in terms of length and structure, as well as the feeling that they're not quite as connected, one to the next, as they might be. But it's still a lovely collection of gentle-minded writing about the natural world, bees and beekeeping, and rural life in the Ozarks. I kind of love that, 25 years ago, Hubbell is writing about how free-range chickens taste better than factory-farmed one...more
Ann
I thoroughly enjoyed this 221-page book, and finished it in one day. The author captured so many wonderful details about her life as a beekeeper in the Ozarks.

The level of detail and information about the wildlife she encountered during a year's time on her farm was fascinating. I learned so many new facts about birds and animals that are also common here in Minnesota that are equally as present in the Ozarks.

A Country Year - Living the Questions was an inspiring and insightful book - not only...more
Deb Hale
Sep 28, 2007 Deb Hale rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of nature
l enjoyed the well-done essays. Sue Hubbell's writing is as real as the creatures and plants she loves. I admired Hubbell's love and knowledge of nature. I admired her ability to point out others' lack of appreciation of nature's creatures, without chastising them or speaking ill of them. I admired her independence and the way she spoke of her former husband. There seemed to be some pain still there, but it was not a suffering she dwelled on or even spoke of, beyond comments such as having to le...more
Kim
This is a great book and the author's voice comes through warm, independent and self-reliant. I enjoy the beginning of the book where she talks about how a flock of indigo butting takes over her field.
Brynn
"Living in a world where the answers to questions can be so many and so good is what gets me out of bed and into my boots every morning." ~ pg. 58

"As a human being I am a great meddler; I fiddle, alter, modify. This is neither good nor bad, merely human, in the same way that the snake who eats mice and phoebes is merely serpentish. But being human I have the kind of mind which can recognize that when I fiddle and twitch any part of the circle there are reverberations throughout the whole." ~ pg....more
Vanessa
Great book. Great person writing it. Want to be more in sync with the seasons like this author is.
Julie
A beautifully written story of her life as a bee-keeper in Missouri with great natural history lessons interwoven!
Jan Tymorek
Beautiful introspective writing on what it is to be a woman. In this book, Sue Hubbell, recently divorced, with one grown son living far away, continues to operate the bee farm she and her husband owned together in the Ozark Mountains. She has a wonderful sense of adventure and delight in her life, even in the hard parts, which she faces with curiosity and courage. Her observations about the world around her, and within her, read like a novel even though they are seasonal essays. I couldn't put...more
Cheryl
A tender memoir written as a series of personal essays and organized by seasonal themes. From the title and the understanding that the book was written only shortly after the end of the 30 year marriage, I expected more pathos than I found. Instead, I found a woman living quite competently and contentedly on her own, a professional beekeeper, and a fine and affectionate student of nature. The book is liberally sprinkled with expositions on the fauna and flora of the Missouri Ozarks, as well as o...more
Misti
Keep this one on my shelf to revisit. Refreshing breath of air on rural living and appreciation of nature and creation.
Catherine
Scenes from the first year following the end of the author’s 30-year marriage. Not your typical mid-life divorce story, Sue Hubbell supports herself as a beekeeper while living in a small house on a 90-acre property in the Ozarks. The style of writing is one of my favorites: deceptively spare on the surface, yet richly layered with insightful observations of the small and large events she recounts. Each chapter is an essay that can stand on its own. The tone of the book is serene even though the...more
Sarah
This book explores one year of living at Hubbell’s country cabin in the Ozarks. Hubbell pays rapt attention to the flora and fauna of her landscape, and she applies human emotions and actions to the animals to make them more endearing to the reader. Through simple, clear observation and a bit of science, she calls on the reader to pay more attention to his landscape. I wouldn't say the book will necessarily stick with me, but I appreciated Hubbell's observations and enjoyed walking her land with...more
Linda
I read this around eight years ago, and loved it then. I'm reading Waiting for Aphrodite right now, and was reminded about Country Year. I love how Hubbell weaves natural history into a personal memoir. It's the story of how she makes a living as a beekeeper after she and her husband divorce. They had moved to the Ozarks together, and she stays on after they split up. Hubbell's gentle, insightful observations of the living things around her (humans included) make for a meditative and engaging re...more
Elena
I would never have chosen this book to read, but it was for a book club, so I dutifully read it. I actually liked it quite a bit. It was in the non-fic section at the library, which made me cautious. But it was like reading someone's blog entries. I found it very insightful and though-provoking. Nothing to capture your imagination or keep you in suspense, but just a nice, feel-good book that helped me think about the beauties around us and appreciate nature. Give it a try!!!
Stephanie Cowart
My friend April loaned me this book.
It's like a breath of fresh air!
It's the memories of a 50-something divorcee who lives out in a cabin in the Ozark Mountains. She tells the stories in seasons starting with Spring. I love her descriptions of the wildlife and plants. She's a beekeeper and her stories about the bees and their culture are fascinating. She has a great up front writing style, very easy to read. I really enjoyed this book and will check out others by this author!
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500 Great Books B...: A Country Year: Living the Questions - Sue Hubbell 1 1 Jul 22, 2014 04:20PM  
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Sue Hubbell is a graduate of the Universtiy of Southern California. She received a master's degree in library science from the Drexel Institute of Technology and was a librarian at Brown University. In addition to her books she has written for Time Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, The New Yorker, the New York Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She currently resides in Maine.
More about Sue Hubbell...
A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them Broadsides from the Other Orders: A Book of Bugs Waiting for Aphrodite: Journeys into the Time Before Bones Shrinking the Cat: Genetic Engineering Before We Knew About Genes Far Flung Hubbell: Essays from the American Road

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