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Saturday, April 18, 2020

Riches-to-Rags Memoir Funny, Poignant

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

English teacher Jennifer McGaha was casually going about her happy upper-middle-class life when she got the shock of a lifetime—she and her husband were bankrupt.  Not only that but they owed over $100,000 in back taxes.  Having always left the handling of family finances up to her accountant spouse, McGaha had no idea just how bad their money situation had gotten.  Feeling betrayed, angry, and worried, she realized with alarm that she and her husband could go to jail, even though she had had no clue their yearly taxes weren't being paid.  Although that didn't end up happening, the couple did have to make some major adjustments.  And fast.  

After acknowledging the part her own ignorance played in the situation and forgiving her husband, McGaha pressed on.  Foreclosing on their dream home, the couple moved to the cheapest rental they could find—a ramshackle, 100-year-old farmhouse deep in a remote Appalachian holler.  Even though it was infested with mice and falling down around their heads, at $250 a month, they would have to make do.  With zero homesteading skills between the two of them, the McGahas set about learning how to do things they never could have imagined themselves doing:  wrestling snakes, making their own yogurt, breeding goats, raising chickens, etc.  In the middle of all their adventures and misadventures, the couple made an incredible discovery.  Living closer to the land had brought them closer to each other, teaching them invaluable lessons about contentment, endurance, self-reliance, and the true meaning of home.

Flat Broke With Two Goats is a funny and poignant memoir about everything McGaha has learned from her riches-to-rags experience.  While it deals with some heavy themes, on the whole, the book is upbeat and entertaining.  It does ramble on a bit, making for some dull patches.  It even takes an odd turn into a jarring section on the author's abusive first marriage, which doesn't seem to quite fit with the rest of the narrative.  On the whole, though, Flat Broke With Two Goats is an engrossing, empowering memoir.  Although I could have done without all the animal mating stories, overall, I liked this one, even if I didn't love it.  

P.S.  I listened to the book on audio and thought Pam Ward did an excellent job with the narration.  

(Readalikes:  Coop by Michael Perry)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, and sexual innuendo/content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find


  1. I had forgotten about this book! I read it right after it came out and really enjoyed it though it convinced me that I never ever wanted to own goats - especially not a male one. Granted this has never been high on my wishlist but that really confirmed it. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  2. That title totally made me laugh. And reading your review? I really want to read this one! It sounds awesome. :)

  3. I listened to this one a while back and found their experience to be a fascinating one. I don't think I would ever have the guts to try something like that no matter how otherwise desperate I might be.

    I really love memoirs. The genre has become a mainstay of my nonfiction reading.

  4. I am always amazed at how much each spouse doesn't do/know in relationships and how resilient people can be when faced with adversity.

  5. Oh wow, flashback. I remember a year or two ago I ran across someone's thorough and savage recap of this book -- I think it was through TTT but I can't for the life of me remember who. It had a real "that sounds terrible, I want to [read] it twice" effect.

    Problem is I can't find/remember the details of that review, and this does legitimately look interesting from the description, though. Feels like it could potentially be 3 stars, based on your review. So now I'm very torn on whether I would be able to overlook the choices and attitudes that made so many reviewers rate it 1 star, or if the sole enjoyment would come from getting mad. Dilemmas...

  6. I have seen this book around before and do like the sound of it. Too bad it has a few slow parts but it sounds like it would be worth a listen.


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