The Bucolic Plague written by Josh Kilmer-Purcell recounts the purchase of a beautifully restored 1802 mansion on a sprawling estate in upstate New York. Kilmer-Purcell purchase the house along with his partner Dr. Brent Ridge (an employee of Martha Stewart Omni Media) for a country get-away. But soon both men find themselves in the grips of an unrelenting love affair with their new home and attempt to find a way to give up their day jobs in Manhattan and find a way to ‘live off the land’ at their new home. So they start to make soap from goat milk to sell and their adventure begins.
At first I was mildly irritated by the book. Although I am a steadfast devotee of all ‘country life books’ I found Kilmer-Purcell’s story to be a bit too tidy at first. They painlessly grow heirloom vegetables in raised beds that they constructed in a cheerful haze of farmy delight while a thousand contented goats frolick in the background. Their village teems with cheerful, helpful souls who love nothing better than to invite the new people to fabulous parties where everyone drinks and eats and helps each other to succeed. And then Martha Stewart invites the new gentlemen farmers onto her show and overnight they sell out of their stock of goat soap.
But then about halfway through the book, there is a shift. A decidedly rancid shift. The relationship between Brent and Josh begins to reel. Their finances falter. The goats sicken and die… Okay. The goats don’t really sicken and die, but a few things do start to go wrong and that is when the story started to have a bit more mirthless ire while maintaining a mirthful undercurrent which (sicko that I am) began to perk my interest. I also found myself enjoying the story more whenever Martha Stewart showed up. She is always a fascinating character and hearing employee gossip about her is even better!
If you like stories where the houses are one of the main characters, of people trying to live off the land, of big city gossip set inside a New England hamlet, you might enjoy this book. I spent a bit of time on the Beekman Boys website after I finished it. They also have a television show now. I have not seen it, but may try to catch it at some point. There are better back to the land books out there, but because of it’s social media aspects, it’s Martha Stewart cameos and the fact that it is a gay couple rather than the same/old same old hetero couple learning how to raise poultry, make cheese and can tomatoes, it makes an interesting addition to the ‘country life’ genre.