Friday, October 17, 2008

Prairie Home

After reading a serious book for our monthly Book Club meeting (see Anna's blog next Sunday) I was ready for something on the lighter side. A visiting friend recommended The Quality of Life Report and even gave me her copy. The narrator is Lucinda Trout, an associate producer for a local New York television magazine show called New York Up Early. Twenty-nine and living in a one-room one-window apartment on the Upper West Side, she returns from an assignment reporting on meth addiction in the Midwest and persuades her boss to let her move to Prairie City for a year to report on “quality of life” - “New Yorkers think they don't have it (or must pay a lot for it)”. The initial appeal of Prairie City USA is apparent – affordable apartments, relaxed lifestyle, available men (preferably one who resembles Sam Shepard). She plans to report to her New York audience on the joys of life on the prairie – its sweeping vistas, its charming farmhouses, its local characters.

At first Prairie City seems to fit Lucinda's preconceived notions – the women wear batik and dangly earrings and serve deviled eggs and Rice Krispie treats. But their lives are far more complex than any stereotype. And when Lucinda falls for her own version of Sam Shepard named Mason Clay (great name!), and moves into an old drafty farmhouse with him, his kids, various animals and a bitter cold prairie winter, she has to face her own quality of life issues.

Daum has a caustic sense of humor, and she skewers both the pretensions of Lucinda's New York friends and the platitude-filled pep talks of her Prairie City ones. And she doesn't spare Lucinda herself, whose attempts to make people fit her notion of them fail miserably. This is a book that made me laugh but tackled some serious issues as well. A good read for the beach or an airplane.

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