Title: Flat Broke with Two Goats
Author: Jennifer McGaha
Format: Digital ARC, 368 pages
Publication Details: January 23rd 2018 by Sourcebooks
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.
A charming memoir of one woman’s unexpected journey from country chic to backwoods barnyard
Just as the Great Recession was easing in some parts of the country, Jennifer McGaha experienced an economic crisis of epic proportions. Her home was in foreclosure; she had $4.57 in the bank; and worst of all, she had recently discovered that she and her accountant husband owed four years of back taxes to the state of North Carolina and the IRS. And then things got really bad…
Flat Broke with Two Goats takes readers on a wild adventure from a Cape Cod-style home in the country to a hundred-year-old, mice-infested, snake-ridden cabin in a North Carolina holler. With self-effacing humor and unflinching honesty, Jennifer chronicles the joys and difficulties of living close to nature, and in the process she comes to discover the true meaning of home.
This book was not at all what I was expecting and I think that hindered my enjoyment of it. I had read the synopsis but for some reason I had it in my mind that it would be more about becoming self-sufficient in the wilderness than about a family’s fall from grace.
I don’t read that many memoirs (but I’m trying to branch out more this year), and I feel quite awkward about reviewing this one truthfully because it seems akin to slagging off someone’s life and actions. It’s much easier to slag off a made up story.
So, I really hope I don’t cause any offence with my opinion, but this book made me quite angry! I found Jennifer infuriating. How could she be so clueless about her family’s finances? I understand that her husband was an accountant so she left the money side to him, but when she listed all the ‘signs’ that they were in difficulties, the list didn’t read as signs so much as glaringly obvious incidents (such as their power and water being frequently turned off and having bailiffs at the door on more than one occasion). I mean really?
There were lots of other things I didn’t understand too. Such as how a family whose main breadwinner was on ‘six figures a year’ can get into such a terrible financial situation. The decision he made to stop paying taxes (without telling his wife, I should add), but to carry on paying for a very expensive private school for their children. I was also confused as to why they thought it was OK to break into their old house to collect their things, instead of calling the police…
Jennifer details how the house was legally still theirs during the foreclosure but that the owners, previously thought of as life-long friends, had boxed up all their belongings, stored them in the garage, and changed all the locks. The options as Jennifer believes were 1. to contact their now ex-friends 2. contact the police or 3. break in. And they broke in. Why? It was at points like this in the story in which I lost all faith in the narrator. I realise you don’t know how you would react in any given situation until it happens to you, but I simply could not fathom Jennifer’s behaviour and attitude.
The main thing that annoyed me however, was that Jennifer was never able to look on the bright side. They are offered a run-down cabin to rent for peanuts. Sure, it needs a LOT of work, but it comes with land, and is in a beautiful location surrounded by waterfalls; so beautiful that tourists travel there from all around the world. No matter how run-down the cabin is, you’d think just a little part of them would be thrilled to be in such a beautiful place, I know I would. I couldn’t help thinking that they didn’t deserve it.
I did appreciate Jennifer’s ability to keep calm and carry on though, and I guess I was a little inspired by that, and the fact that she stuck with her husband despite all of his misdemeanors, but essentially this wasn’t the book I wanted to read.
The one thing I couldn’t fault about Flat Broke however, was the writing. It was written so well I wanted to keep reading even though I wasn’t enjoying the story, and that is as high a praise I can muster I’m afraid.