Sometimes things just don't turn out like you expect. Nowhere is this more true than in the journey of the Kirkpatricks, a modern-day couple who dreamed of buying a piece of land and settling in Eastern Oregon in their own remote, ranch-like piece of heaven. HOMESTEAD is the very personal memoir of Jane Kirkpatrick's journey from a comfortable life with a professional career to an isolated piece of land appropriately known as Starvation Point. More than just a story of transitioning, HOMESTEAD is a book about modern-day pioneering, following your dreams and responding to God's invitation even when it's not easy.
In a series of short chapters, Kirkpatrick recounts her first encounter with Starvation Point and the step-by-step journey of selling their home, moving and developing a remote piece of property. Along the way, she learns valuable lessons about the importance of good neighbors, family and hope. The author manages to fuse a faith-element into her writing without being preachy; rather, it's a natural extension of who she is and the world she lives in.
Following a plane crash and painful recovery, Kirkpatrick writes, "We should have remembered our neighbors and friends, and the completeness of God's provision. Few moments in our experience of homesteading on Starvation Point equal the gratitude we felt on a hot, muggy day in late April when assorted cars and trucks began winding their way down the steep ravine, slowly weaving along the reptile road, arriving six minutes from when we first spied them on the grade, carrying men with shovels and gloves… Women from the church and others we didn't even know covered my grandmother's harvest table with casseroles and fried chicken and salads and home-baked pies, then sat around talking, catching up with one another."
She compares the event to a barn raising that may have happened 50 or so years ago. And she describes her own sense of joy and despair --- a feeling of gratitude mixed with the wonder of how they could ever repay such kind strangers. From this moment a gracious rancher's wife explained, "It's a gift. You pass on the pleasure of gifts by enjoying them!"
It's these kinds of encounters and moments that breathe life and depth into this book. While a 300-plus-page memoir may be a bit much for lighter readers, there are enough colorful tidbits to keep you going.
Overall, the book reads more like fiction than nonfiction, which is no surprise since Kirkpatrick is the author of nine novels including A NAME OF HER OWN as well as the Kinship and Courage series. This book is filled with lengthy descriptions, background tales and a meandering pace that will frustrate some readers while soothing others.
HOMESTEAD is highly recommended to fans of Jane Kirkpatrick as well as to anyone who is planning on making a move or transitioning later in life. Undoubtedly you'll be able to connect both to the stories and to the struggles found in this book.
Reviewed by Margaret Feinberg on October 18, 2005