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Monday, September 7, 2009

Don't waste your time with this lavender queen

Ever since I learned to, I have loved to read. My parents were great readers. In the end my father lost his eye sight and my mother has just stopped reading. It’s easier for her to sit in front of the television. I hope I never cease reading because there are so many books I want to read. The stack of unread books in our bedroom is unseemly and I frequently renew my vow to not purchase any more until I’ve finished what I’ve got, but something I hear reviewed on the radio or see in a book store will sing its siren song and I hand over my debit card excitedly for books can take you places you’ve never been or on adventures you haven’t the time or talent for.

This summer I succumbed to one of those siren songs while I was touring Oregon’s Lavender Festival. At one farm they had a beautiful book for sale in the gift shop—The Unlikely Lavender Queen—a memoire of a woman, Jeannie Ralston, who up stakes her life in NY and ends up growing lavender in Texas. Two years ago I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The Unlikely Lavender Queen promised to be the lavender version of that book which had left me wanting to drop in on the Kingsolver family to see how they were doing. My daughter-in-law Ana frequently sighs wistfully saying that if she was to win the lottery we’d buy a lavender farm for could there possibly be any place lovelier to live? My friend who was touring the lavender farms with me asked if she could read the book when I was done as I forked over $24.

A rainy Labor Day weekend seemed to be exactly the excuse to escape into so promising a volume and I devoted an entire day to indulging in a favorite activity. The book begins with Ralston, a NY freelance journalist (hey, there’s a fantasy of mine!) grudgingly cutting lavender in her family’s farm to take it to a market where she’s embarrassed to be entering through the back with other farmers. My first thought is why the heck did she get into the business if she finds it embarrassing to selling lavender? Well, it’s only the first few pages and then she takes us back to how she got to Texas by betraying her fiancé for a Texas photographer. Okay, not nice, but he’s wonderful right? She’s making the right decision to dump her self-absorbed fiancé for the young gorgeous National Geographic photographer, right? Pretty quickly it becomes apparent that the ex-fiancé wasn’t the only self-absorbed person in this story, but Ralston tries to compromise on her love of the urban live in NY and agrees to move to Austin, Texas (which she considers rather uncivilized) with the hunk. They haven’t even bought the property that will become the farm when it becomes apparent that Ralston is a whiner about country living and her photographer husband is a demanding perfectionist. I would not have moved across the street much less across country for this man. Okay, if I just keep reading I’ll find a reason to like these people, right? Wrong.

One third of the way through the book and all of the way through the day I’d given over to reading and little else I still didn’t like these people and could not have cared less if they were suddenly abducted by aliens from the Texas hill country. I turned to to see what other readers had to say about the book and wasn’t surprised to find that I’m not alone in thoroughly disliking these people. One review said that the reader had at first reacted the same as I, but stuck with it and ended up liking the book. Were I in some sort of class and this were required reading I might gut it out, but I’m cutting my losses. My stack of books waiting to be read is just too high to waste my time with people I wouldn’t want as neighbors much less friends.

For our anniversary my husband gave me Seattle author Heather Barbieri’s The Lace Makers of Glenmara. I think I will try that next and let you know how I fare.

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