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Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm
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Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  2,504 ratings  ·  457 reviews
Poignant, irreverent, and hilarious: the memoir of a woman who, after ending her nineteen-year marriage, staves off a perpetually empty bank account, saves her century-old farmhouse from foreclosure with the help of her three young sons, and reclaims her life.

It's the summer of 2005, and Mardi Jo Link's dream of living the simple life has unraveled into debt, heartbreak, a
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published June 11th 2013 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2013)
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3.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,504 ratings  ·  457 reviews

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Sep 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: could-not-finish
I was wildly disappointed with this book. It had been recommended to me because I was raised on a farm, partly by a single mother, partly with both parents, and fully immersed in all that farming (small or large)has to offer. I was not impressed by either the writing, or the events that she portrayed. If you have been truly broke and truly ever lived on a farm you know that many of the events described were not even close to what actually happens. Her choices were perplexing,they seemed to be dr ...more
Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
I spent the first couple of chapters being annoyed because this was pitched at a publisher's preview as "the next WILD" and it just isn't. Yeah, they both have strong single women protagonists, and they're both memoirs, but the books are quite different overall and I think I would have warmed to this faster if I hadn't kept thinking "look, lady, you're no Cheryl Strayed". She wasn't/isn't trying to be; that does the book and author a disservice.

The writing is great; there were several times wher
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
The writing itself was average to good. However, I felt that Mardi's refusal to ask her family for help or apply to the Government programs available for just this type of problem showed a level of pride I had a hard time relating to. She spent a lot of time talking about how she didn't want the divorce to effect her son's lives but given her choices how could it not. The title is misleading, she never in my opinion became a badass and while she did have a garden there was no actual farming goin ...more
Aug 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There are many reasons to love this memoir, for me: It's gritty and realistic and Mardi Link bares her mother + woman soul. It's set in the place where I live and feels intimately familiar. The reader knows, going in--from the title, even--that Link survives and eventually thrives, so the knocks and bumps she writes about (the nadir of which is having a freezer full of grown-and-raised food go bad) come with a happier ending, guaranteed.

And, of course, the writing. I've read Link's "Isadora's Se
Luanne Ollivier
Jun 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Bootstrapper: to promote or develop by initiative and effort with little or no assistance --- Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Mardi Jo Link is living the life she always dreamed of - three amazing young sons and the opportunity to raise them in the countryside in a beautiful old farmhouse sitting on six acres. And yes, there was a husband too - but with divorce now a certainty, Mardi Jo is determined to hang onto her sons, her house and her land - by herself.

"I'm claiming my sons, the farm, the deb
Jan 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: alamw13
I got this book free at ALA Midwinter.

I'm from Ohio (thisclose to Michigan) and Link's voice sounded so familiar to me that I was immediately drawn in to her memoir of divorce and reinvention. I could identify deeply with much of it. Being a single mom is hard. Being a poor single mom with no steady income is harder still. Link makes her story sing. One roots for her and the boys the whole way through. There are hilarious bits, and others that like to tore out my heart. Over the course of this s
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
Just awesome. She is bad ass and local. What more can a girl ask for??
Sally Ewan
Jun 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
An account of a woman surviving divorce and economic hardship on a farm near Grand Traverse Bay. I admire several things about this woman. She didn't savage her husband, as is typical in situations like this, but gave enough information to explain her actions in asking for a divorce. (Of course, as is also typical, we never get the other person's point of view!) Her determination to raise her sons to be hard workers and lovers of the outdoors was also an attractive trait. Too bad she didn't purs ...more
Aug 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I must say I am suprised by a lot of the somewhat mean and judgy comments on here..I enjoyed the book and its honesty. I believe a farm or homestead is what you make it is there someone out there who determines whether you have a "farm" or not? I too have a rather large pride issue in the last few years that has needed work. No one is perfect. Everyone learns in their own way and time. But as I suspect most people on here are just amatuer readers looking to critisize someone they don't know and ...more
Rachel Watkins
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, memoir
Perhaps it is because, like Mardi Jo, I have three boys and been through a tough divorce, but this book was a delight. Her prose is a joy to read and her story compelling. Mardi Jo's journey is tough and inspiring and unlike any memoir I've read. Don't compare this to WILD as some have. This is not WILD. This is different and beautiful and very relatable.
Sam Sattler
Jul 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Bootstrapper, Mardi Jo Link’s new memoir, threw me a bit of a curve. The book’s subtitle reads this way: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm, leading me to believe that its focus was on the difficulty of eking out a living from one of today’s small American farms – a topic that intrigues me, especially as seen from the female point-of-view. Instead, Bootstrapper is more the story of one woman’s struggle to survive the breakup of her marriage to a Weak Ass from Northern Michigan – a ...more
Anne Simonot
Sep 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
A little bit of a disappointment for me. While I empathized (been there myself, and, like the author, with 3 kids after 19 years of marriage) with Ms Link's story of divorce and single-parenting, the book felt somewhat flat to me. Her six acres hardly qualifies as a "farm", for one thing. Her boys are so co-operative and helpful, I kept wondering if they could possibly be as wonderful as they were portrayed. They sure didn't resemble most teenagers I know. As other reviewers have commented, her ...more
Jun 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Growing up on a "farm"* in Michigan, I hoped to enjoy this book more than I did. As much as I wanted to sympathize with the author I just couldn't. I mean, come on-- [SPOILER ALERT] who orders chickens through the mail and expects them to arrive as fully grown hens? I found her anecdotes to be mildly entertaining at best, boring at worst.

*Not a working farm--the house and outbuildings (barns, no silo) were 100+ years old when I lived there and the only animals we had were laying hens. No horses
KJ Grow
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Mardi Jo Link joins the club of women including Cheryl Strayed and Kelly Corrigan who I want to put in my pocket and carry wherever I go and make my best friends.

Lucky for me, I already have those kind of friends, but it sure makes my heart glad to see women like us - women of strength, resolve, resilience, character, and compassion - getting lots of book deals.


Feb 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: local, memoir
Almost nothing about the book’s title or subtitle is accurate. This should have been named A year of being newly divorced, very broke, and prideful to my family’s detriment, with a lot of talk about a farm but very little farming actually occurring. But this doesn’t mean I don’t like it. I actually found the author quite relatable and funny. There are many ways that I could see myself in her shoes, especially in her desire to raise her kids in back to nature kind of way. I didn’t always like her ...more
Aug 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I am perplexed by the reviewers who criticized the book because they don't agree with some of the lifestyle choices the author made. The question is, how is the writing? I wouldn't have conducted my life exactly the way Mardi Jo Link did, but that doesn't mean that I can't benefit from her experiences. This is more than a mere account of one year in the author's life; it also contains a lot of insight born of honest reflection about what she did do that first year after her 19-year marriage ende ...more
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
I won this book from
Okay, I'll say from the start I was not sure what this book was about . . . an axe murderer maybe?? But the title didn't seem to fit the picture either so I didn't know what was coming.
Facing difficulties as a divorced mom with three sons is offset with humor and innovativeness. Her work ethic imposed on the boys for their successful future is admirable and all too rare it seems these days. It may seem harsh, but in the long run it will serve them well.
The one
Aug 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was really excited to read this book because we recently purchased a hobby farm and I hope to get more information about life on the farm and what that looks like from a homesteading point of view, instead I was disappointed by the average writing, the emotional breakdowns, the Pollyanna portrayal of her mothering and a complete refusal to accept help when she really needed it. Her children suffered and she suffered and she never seemed to learn any lesson around the self imposed suffering. Sh ...more
Mar 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
A self-engrandizing and stereotypical divorcee story. I could go into myriads of reasons why this story is worrisome for women and literature aimed to women. The same thread of "I am bored with my life and husband has not lived up to his potential, so I will just get divorced and apparently be celebrated for it" as Eat, Pray, Love. And, similarly, she must meet a man at the end to complete her life again, only on a farm this time and not traveling. Please save yourself the pain of reading this b ...more
Steve Fox
Nov 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I listened to this on audio - during commute and finished on an airplane. It is funny - and inspiring. And it's local to Michigan, specifically to the Traverse City area. A good read about a strong, independent woman. We can't have enough of those in the world!
Apr 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
On paper I couldn’t possibly be more different from Mardi Jo Link. I am childless, in a happy marriage, financially secure, and living on a farm would be my worst nightmare. Despite that, I loved her and found myself completely identifying with her need to make it on her own.
Jul 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2017, memoir, non-fiction
Found the author obtuse and selfish. Only stuck with it because I was trapped on a plane with no other books.
Cadillac Library Book Club Program
Loved it! Easy to read, funny, poignant, thoughtful and heart breaking. Mardi Jo Link is inspirational in a human (not too perfect) way.
Alison Rice
Dec 30, 2018 rated it did not like it
Very unsatisfying read. The author never really got the tone right—she doesn’t have enough edge to make the black humor work consistently, and her financial situation is too dire to be funny.
Jaclyn Day
Aug 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was one of those books I randomly decided to read because it sounded vaguely entertaining and I’m a sucker for fun cover art. Memoirs of rural living/adventure set alongside some sort of personal or professional hardship OR displayed as a brave and courageous departure from the monotony of a 9-5 life are littered on bookshelves. Maybe Wild started it, maybe Animal, Vegetable, Miracle did it first, but whatever the case, they are now A Thing. And I’m okay with that. I enjoy them a lot. You w ...more
Schuyler Wallace
Sep 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Mardi Jo Link. Now there’s a name to strike fear into the indolent, the foolish, and the hardhearted. In her memoir, BOOTSTRAPPER, Link displays her remarkable ability to push aside hardship and disappointment, never bowing to the negatives lurking in their presence. If you have bad work habits she will gladly point them out somewhere in this book. And, she can write.

Link is a single woman living on a tiny Michigan farm where money is short, comfort is fleeting, work is never ending, and three b
Jun 10, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women-authors, memoir
Schadenfreude is my friend. When I'm feeling bummed and broke and stressed, a book about other bummed and broke and stressed people--and how they got out of that situation--is the perfect remedy.

Mardi Jo is getting divorced. Her husband has moved right across the street. That works out well for their three boys, but Mardi Jo is having a very hard time keeping it together, and in particular paying her mortgage. She lives on a 6-acre small farm that has been her lifelong dream.She doesn't have a r
Eric Moote
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Women, Michiganders, divorcees, book clubs
Recommended to Eric by: NPR
Shelves: non-fiction
Overall: it was a little less than okay. Why did I think I would like this book? Oh, I know, it was the words "farm" and "badass" in the title. Too bad the title should have been "Bootstrapper: From Depressed Divorcee to Just Okay on a Northern Michigan 'Farm.'"

Granted, I am not the target audience of Mardi Jo Link, so take my review with a grain of salt. I am a happily married christian man who lives in an urban environment.

I picked up this book because my family bought a farm/homestead up in
Jul 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was an awesome memoir about a newly single mom with three boys who struggles and works hard in order to keep her dream farmhouse for her family. When Mardi decides to ask for a divorce from her husband, she knows it will be a struggle to keep her dream house, but she is determined to do it - not only for herself, but also for her boys. But, she had no idea just how hard and how much of a struggle it will be. At the end of a really tough year Mardi can look back at all the sacrifice and see ...more
Marie Zhuikov
Sep 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
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Mardi Link is the author of the memoirs The Drummond Girls: A Story of Fierce Friendship Beyond Time and Chance and Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass On a Northern Michigan Farm . She studied agriculture and journalism at Michigan State University and creative writing at Queens University of Charlotte. She has worked as a newspaper reporter, a street tree planter, a seamstress, and a tournamen ...more
“Coincidence, said Einstein, is God’s way of remaining anonymous. I’m beginning to think this sockless, timeless mathematician might be onto something after all,” 0 likes
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