“Bucolia” by Matthew Thuney
One of the fun things about this column is that I hear from writers all over the region. Authors from big towns to little burgs I’ve never heard of send me their books for consideration. It pains me that I can’t get to them all — I know about the high hopes and hard work that go into literary endeavors!
This week let’s look at a book that hails from one of those tucked-away places, a hamlet alongside the Nooksack River, not far from the Canadian border.
Matthew Thuney and his wife planned to spend their retirement there. They liked the quiet and the trees and the slower pace of life. They just didn’t realize how much slower until they tried to get the manufactured home they’d bought, delivered.
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And that’s about where things begin in Thuney’s new book, “Bucolia: Hijinx in the Hinterlands.”
The construction of the home was itself a gradual process: “by ‘gradually’” Thune writes, “I mean that assembling our home on, say, the eastern coast of Russia and waiting for the process of continental drift to float the completed house to the Pacific Northwest would have been more expedient.”
As it turned out, the delivery of the home was an even more drawn-out procedure. Thuney drolly details the dealership’s dismissals of his repeated warnings about the one-lane girder bridge on the sole paved road to his property as a potential barrier to delivery — until delivery day came, the bridge was confronted, and a new route had to be devised.
Plan B was to haul the house over a mountain via switchback logging roads — during logging season.
This is just the start of the hi-jinx promised in the book’s subtitle.
Thuney tries to shed his city slicker status as he learns how to deal with water witches, zucchini, barbed wire and, during a particularly bad cold snap, a hand-me-down generator that came without instructions.
Just as incorrigible are his hard-of-hearing father-in-law, Vernon, and Vernon’s cows, which are pastured on the property.
The author won’t ingratiate himself with cow-lovers when he begins one chapter with the declaration, “Cows. I hate ’em” and devotes the next several pages to a comical anti-bovine rant, even going so far to refer to those who might disagree with him as “moon-eyed cow pie loving fancypants leather-haters” — a category which includes this reviewer (at least the moon-eyed leather-hating part).
But to his credit, Thuney tends to be an equal opportunity offender and pokes more fun at himself than at anyone else. He eats his humble pie with a dollop of good humor — and he’s learned to bring veggie burgers as well as meat to the local potlucks.
Bucolia, Thuney tells us, turns out to be more a state of mind than a place on the map.
“Bucolia” the book, graced with nice pen-and-ink illustrations by Whatcom County artist Ellen Clark, is dedicated to the proposition that laughter and good fellowship help create the kind of community where you want to put down roots.
The Bookmonger review appears each week in Take Five. Contact her at email@example.com.
Matthew Thuney will be reading from and signing copies of his book, “Bucolia: Hijinx in the Hinterlands” from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 13 at Cozy Corner Books and Coffee, 3094 Northwest Ave., Bellingham.