This book provides a fantastic, multilayered history of burley tobacco culture in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky. Although it disclaims itself as aThis book provides a fantastic, multilayered history of burley tobacco culture in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky. Although it disclaims itself as a technical manual on tobacco production, there is much useful information in here, both to the casual observer of farming and to the hobby grower. For me, this was a fascinating read because it explained the cultural and agricultural backdrop of the community in which I make my home, where almost everyone I know had relatives who made their cash on a few acres of tobacco.
Most interesting is the detailed explanation of the tobacco price stabilization program, a vestige of New Deal policy that made life demonstrably better for countless thousands of farm families. Since the end of the program, we've seen the end of the small, diversified farm. One can drive down back roads in former tobacco counties and see firsthand the abandoned farmhouses as the land becomes consolidated into larger spreads or reverts to wild space.
There's a certain romance to the rich story of a crop that brought so much wealth and pride to the region. Despite the health effects of smoking cigarettes (obvious and absolutely real) one can read this story and appreciate the oily gloss of a hand of burley leaves, carefully tied by the person who grew them. That culture is dying, if not actually dead, but thankful we have records in books like this....more
Brutal. If you liked Fuller's other books, you owe it to her as an author and a person to read this one too, but the end effect is not going to be theBrutal. If you liked Fuller's other books, you owe it to her as an author and a person to read this one too, but the end effect is not going to be the same. That's not a spoiler; you could get that information from the flap. One of the professional reviews said "gutsy," which is an understated but accurate way to convey that this book should hit you like a ton of bricks. I can't decide whether I love it or just like it a lot, and so will leave it without stars. Therefore, it probably deserves a lot of stars by way of rating.
There's probably a little bit of reader-response necessary here; if you grew up in Rhodesia and/or Zimbabwe in the kind of life Fuller describes in Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, then parts of this book are going to feel very foreign, but if you are familiar with the contemporary American hurryup rat race, with attendant death by a thousand cuts (financial & emotional), then this book may even be more scary, because this is a real life story that could happen to the best of us.
Is she going to be okay? Are we all going to be okay? Who knows. I hope so. She hopes so. You should hope so too.
Edit: Now that I've posted my review, I made the mistake of reading some others, and man, Goodreaders are pretty carnivorous at picking apart Fuller's marriage in postmortem. Obviously writing a book about your life leaves you open to such things, but I'm surprised at how mean people are being when she obviously assigns enormous blame and grief to her own life's performance, while treading kind of lightly on Charlie. She errs on the side of describing her feelings (irrational or rational as the reader may judge them) rather than interpolating her husband's. This is very essential honesty. I suppose I shouldn't be shocked at people judging the hell out of an author who has the chutzpah to put herself out there, but then again, this is the internet....more