Review: 'Farm Girl: A Wisconsin Memoir,' by Beuna Coburn Carlson

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"Farm Girl: A Wisconsin Memoir," by Beuna Coburn Carlson. - University of Wisconsin Press/University of Wisconsin Press/TNS

“Farm Girl: A Wisconsin Memoir” by Beuna Coburn Carlson; University of Wisconsin Press (232 pages, $21.95)


The author bio for Beuna Coburn Carlson is tantalizingly terse, saying only that she is “a writer based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.” What has the nonagenarian written? Well, this. No record of other books, articles or even letters to the editor by Carlson seems to exist, which adds to the homespun appeal of “Farm Girl,” where Carlson comes off like a Depression-era Laura Ingalls Wilder.

The book consists of loving two- and three-page essays that describe life on a farm near Plum City, Wisconsin. Carlson includes trips to Lake Pepin and Stockholm, but mostly addresses her mom’s prodigious canning, the way her dad divvied up milking duties, surviving the drought of the 1930s and how families navigated party line telephones. It’s a deeply nostalgic book — so deep that the most irritated Carlson gets is when she snipes that teachers now insist on being called “educators” — but so few people are around to describe life 90 years ago that surely Carlson is entitled to snipe about whatever she wants to.


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