A couple of weeks ago, I was in the car, listening to NPR, and there was an interview with Mardi Jo Link, author of a new memoir, Bootstrapper. I pulled the car over and just sat and listened to her talk about trying to keep her farm when she got divorced and how difficult it was that first year.
This is from the Amazon page, about the book:
She and her husband of nineteen years have just called it quits, leaving her with serious cash-flow problems and a looming divorce. More broke than ever, Link makes a seemingly impossible resolution: to hang on to her century-old farmhouse in northern Michigan and continue to raise her three boys on well water and wood chopping and dirt. Armed with an unfailing sense of humor and three resolute accomplices, Link confronts blizzards and foxes, learns about Zen divorce and the best way to butcher a hog, dominates a zucchini-growing contest and wins a year’s supply of local bread, masters the art of bargain cooking, wrangles rampaging poultry, and withstands any blow to her pride in order to preserve the life she wants.
As I listened to the interview, I knew I had to order the book and read it. I love memoirs by moms. I ordered it from Amazon that day. A single mom to three boys, trying to grow her own food and survive? I was fascinated. I love the fact that the cover illustration is a brand new axe. Not the stinky teenage perfume, the TOOL FOR CHOPPING. A real axe.
I found this interview of her online and it’s excellent.
I loved this book, Bootstrapper. I rarely say that about any book. Right now I know 5 people I would like to loan it to, but I don’t want to send it away.
When I talked to Mardi, she said she hadn’t thought of writing a memoir until she started sending out query letters to agents, and one said she was a memoirist. “It never occurred to me that my story would be of interest to anyone else. I’m essentially a true crime writer…. In my query emails I attached an essay I wrote about the boys and me, and I was just trying to show that I value literature and I can write.”
I asked her if she had kept a journal of that difficult time, during and right after her divorce. She said she kept some notes, but she takes a lot of photos, and that jogged her memory.
If you like true stories, stories about real women overcoming huge issues and still staying positive and coming out OK, I urge you to buy this book.
- What is your full name? Mardi Jo Link [doesn’t use husband’s name] On the origin of her name: “My parents saw a painting of a woman in museum, and my mom was struck by the picture. The name of the painting was Mardi… Herman Melville also wrote a novel called Mardi.”
- Where would you live, if you could live anywhere in the world? I’d probably still live in Northern Michigan. I’ve been to Europe and South America, and to nearly every state in the US. I love the seasons, and the water, and nature. We have amazing culture. Traverse City is a tourist destination because we are on Lake Michigan. Nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes has been named “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America.
- What is your favorite movie and why? Out of Africa, because I can identify with the main character, who buys and tries to hang on to a farm in Africa.
- What was your least-favorite subject in school when you were a kid? Math! I just don’t see the world that way, in black and white, plus and minus.
- What was your nickname when you were a kid? “MJ”
- Do you believe in God? I do.
- What sound or noise do you love? I like the sounds that come through my window – birds in the morning and crickets in the evening.
- If you could do anything other than what you do, as a profession, what would it be? Wanna laugh?I’m a big football fan and I’d like to be an NFL quarterback!
- If heaven exists, what do you think it is like? I think probably heaven is more a feeling than a place. More pure love.
- Do you have siblings? I have a younger brother.
- What is your favorite memory of childhood [something specific]? When I was growing up, we spent every summer at my grandparents’ house and they lived on a lake. I adored my grandparents. Every year they hired a swimming instructor to teach us how to swim. We dove for clams, cooked on the beach, hiked in the woods. I was with my family and spent so much time outside, it was terrific. My mom used to wake me up real early and take me in the canoe, hunting for turtles.
- If you had to choose between one week traveling around the USA by car, or one week traveling around Europe on a train, which would you choose and why? I would probably choose the USA, just because there are still places I’d like to see. I’ve never been to Gettysburg or the Petrified Forest in Arizona, for example.
- What inspires you? Dialogue – I get inspired when I hear people talk. My children. Other writers. The natural world.
- Which holiday do you prefer, Christmas or July 4th? I actually prefer Thanksgiving. It’s just about family, gratitude, food. There’s no way to commercialize it. It’s not about gifts or buying anything.
- What project or idea are you most passionate about, right now? I have a pretty amazing group of girlfriends and I would like to write a memoir about women’s long-term friendships – specifically the ladies I’ve been friends with for 25 years. For women, our kids grow up, parents die, but relationships with women friends last a lifetime.
- Do you know how to cook? Yes.
- What is your favorite thing to cook/eat? Probably my favorite thing to eat right now is salsa, because of what I get from the garden. I make what’s called kitchen sink salsa, so every day the salsa is a little different, but that’s what I love.
- What is your favorite book? The one I return to most frequently is the collected poems of Emily Dickinson.
- Who do you love the most in the world? My family. [Her oldest son is a chef in Chicago, middle son is a college student, and youngest son is still in high school.]
- What question has nobody ever asked you, but you wanted to answer? Nobody has ever asked me why I write. I think that is my way of being part of the world. That’s the only way I know how to be part of the world.
I look forward to reading Mardi's next book!