Book Review

She’s Gone Country by Jane Porter

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Title: She's Gone Country
Author: Jane Porter
Publication Info: Grand Central August 2010
ISBN: 9780446509411
Genre: Contemporary/Other

Book CoverI have heard from a few readers here that they love Jane Porter’s books. One reader mentioned in particular her sense of humor and her friendly heroines. So when this book arrived I read it in a matter of days. It had a line up of things that I generally jump into as fast as I can:

– a heroine who has picked up her old life and moved to a place that’s familiar and yet completely foreign

– exchanging city life for rural life

– facing real actual contemporary problems that aren’t easy

– finding oneself in charge and having to lead when one really, really doesn’t want to

Shey Darcy is a former model whose husband, a famous fashion photographer, has just left her. She picks up her family, including her 3 teenage sons, and moves home to rural Texas, where she moves into her old home, sends her kids to public school, and tries to figure out where to go from there. Her youngest son loves it, and is fascinated by bullriding. Her middle son is emotionally troublesome and she’s very worried about him, and her oldest is all, “WTF? I went to a private prep school in New York, and you’re making me to go school in what amounts to a giant empty flat field with cows next door? No effing way.”

Over the course of the story, Shey faces really, really big honking problems that she has to tackle solo.

Porter writes about growing older, and having the heroine face her changing role as a model, such as when she’s asked to drive to a job and finds out when she gets there that she’s playing the grandma. The heroine’s sons have real, painful issues, and the hero, former bullriding champion and town celebrity Dane Kelly, has personal issues he has to deal with, in addition to the upheaval of seeing his high school first love back in town. I empathized with the heroine and rooted for her, and wanted everyone in her house to find a happy ending.

But the solutions to the biggest problems for her son, the problem that made me rub my chest over my heart, occurred for the most part off screen. Her son receives really awful text messages and is being bullied via text and online – to the point where it drives him into a scary depression, one that his mother has been watching for since he became depressed in New York some time before. When his mother gets involved, I wanted those responsible to have their asses handed to them, preferably by a large, angry longhorn. But there is no satisfaction for me as the reader, only the reassurance that the son should be ok. I didn’t want should be and I didn’t want offscreen. I wanted a more visual explanation of the consequences. If not a hella shitful asskicking than at least some payment meted out due to the heinous level of behavior.

Plus, the entire book takes place on a working cattle ranch. The heroine does the bookkeeping for her brother, who runs the place. And I don’t think there’s one cow in the whole story. Mystery steers! Completely invisible! Does that mean the cow patties are stinkless and mysterious, too?

As much as I was impressed with Porter for bringing in some serious challenges for the heroine to face – her son growing up, her husband’s manipulation of Shey in spite of her wish for a cordial relationship with him, bullying by text, a younger son who is fascinated by a dangerous sport, an ex-boyfriend she has serious hots for again, a feeling of returning home and not quite fitting in, the challenge of retaining some of her modeling career as she ages – at the end of the book, I nearly chucked it across the patio.

I don’t want to say why, but when there were barely 1/4” of pages left for me to read, Porter introduces a huge plot turn that has no satisfaction and no place that close to the ending. I was meant, I believe, to take this development as a happy one, but given everything that led up to that revelation, I wasn’t happy, nor did I accept that everything was going to be ok when I got to the end. Everything was most definitely NOT ok, and the ending was FAR too close for comfort. With that many problems, realistic one-after-the-other, what-next, this-is-what-real-life-is-like problems in the family, I couldn’t tell if the ending was meant to give way to a sequel or if I was supposed to just accept that, again, everything should be ok.

It was like going on a trip and being told, “This flight is headed to Houston. This flight is going to Houston. You’re aboard a flight that is going to Houston!” and then at the last minute, 5 minutes before landing, you hear, “Wait, never mind. We’re going to Minnesota!”

No one one the plane would say, “Oh, ok!” Neither did I. I liked the heroine, I really cheered for her and was fascinated by her character as a mom, model, ex-wife, betrayed person, manipulated person, strong mother, local celebrity and struggling daughter. But that right turn 1/4” from the end of the book just made me yell. Plus, the theme of the book through the majority was about Shey and her sons’ struggles, and at the end, the last words are some other theme entirely, one that was not explored sufficiently or consistently through the book.

After a story that was about difficulty and overcoming changes you didn’t expect, to have a huge change accepted so easily and with no worries was too much to ask of me as a reader. It was not all ok in the end with me. I anticipated a bittersweet ending that resolved most of the issues facing Shey, and while most of them were addressed, the large and ill-fitting new ones didn’t give me reassurance that they would all live happily ever after. I wanted the affection I had for the heroine to be the memory I had of this book, and after I finished it, my first reactions upon seeing the book are confusion and frustration and anger.


This book can be pre-ordered at Book Depository, Powell’s, Amazon.com, and BN.com.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    Of course there are mystery steers. Where do you think mystery meat comes from?

  2. 2
    Holly says:

    Well, damn. I want to know what this big plot screwup was, now!

  3. 3
    Shaheen says:

    Hey, what’s wrong with Minnesota!?! Seriously though, I hate it when huge plot diversions happen right at the end of the book. I sympathize. I am also wild with curiosity. What happened?

  4. 4
    orangehands says:

    Yeah, can you do your spoiler hide thingy so we can see the plot reveal? I’m really curious.

    Maybe I’ll check out a different Porter book instead of this one.

  5. 5
    JamiSings says:

    Can someone explain to me why so many books about changing one’s life usually comes down to “I’m going to move from the big city to/back to some rinky-dinky town in the country”?

    I guess it’s just because I can’t imagine being stuck someplace in the middle of no where. If I was going to make a big life change I’d leave California for New York. But stay in a city where there’s lots to do. Not in a place like those spots my parents like to go to so you can do nothing but swat bugs and listen to crickets.

  6. 6

    JamiSings: I completely agree with you. How does moving to a small town make everything in life better?

    I too would like to know what this change was because you’re allusion to it are rather confusing and the rest of the book sounds so good I want to know if it’s something I could deal with.

  7. 7
    Bert says:

    I think that the moving (back) to a small town has to do with the idea that small towns are friendlier. As a resident of Wyoming, where small towns are the only variety of town that we have, I can say that the way they are depicted in novels is often just plain silly. No, the entire town is not one big happy family just rooting for you. In real life small towns have challenges just like the big ones. Learning to live without the amenities of a big city is probably the hardest one for new comers. I’m not inclined to think that there is anything wrong with either lifestyle, but I do know that moving to a small town is frequently a very difficult transition and often it doesn’t work out.

  8. 8
    Suze says:

    I’m with you, Jami.  I’m currently trying to talk my parents (early 70’s) to move with me to the big city where we can all age comfortably.  They’re in a very small, isolated town, and they’re really frustrated with the people (everybody likes to point out what ought to be done, but nobody wants to do it.  Nobody is at all curious about the world outside their 2 whole blocks, and thus conversations tend to be very circular and uninteresting), but they don’t want to live in a city.  They want to move to a different small town.

    I would love to support my parents in their old age, but not if it means exile from civilization, and being stuck with close-minded people, and no easy access to medical aid or regular garbage pickup.

  9. 9
    sweetsiouxsie says:

    My husband and I moved from the big city to a small town and it DOES NOT MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER!! No matter where you go, there you are!!

  10. 10
    JamiSings says:

    I’m glad you folks agree with me.

    Even moving from one big city to another probably wouldn’t solve all one’s problems – but I’d like to think that by moving to New York City (if I could ever afford it) I’d at least solve my weight problem. Seeing how parking goes for more then renting an apartment I’d give up the car and walk everywhere I could and take public transit where I couldn’t walk.

    Whereas moving to some rinky dink place out in the country would probably make me fatter. I’d not go anywhere, drive when I did leave, and sit around on the internet eating all day.

  11. 11
    LisaCharlotte says:

    While I agree that small towns aren’t better than large cities I do get frustrated with the assumption that everyone in a small town is an unsophisticated rube that is afraid of the big, bad outside world. I’ve lived in cities of all sizes and the same people populate both. I’m always amazed at people who move to a small city/town and assume they are the only people that have ever lived elsewhere.

  12. 12
    terripatrick says:

    I’ve read all of Jane Porter’s Women’s Fiction.  They are not romances, they often deal with deeply personal issues.  While I haven’t read Shey’s book yet, I have read the others where Shey has been a strong secondary character.  Maybe I’ll feel satisfied about – that big twist at the end – when I read She’s Gone Country.  We’ll see… 

    Jane’s Mrs. Perfect is an amazing read for those that want to explore the “mental disorder” of perfectionism.  Mrs. Perfect is a very well crafted book that seems to have a rather shallow and trite ending.  It is Jane’s breezy and friendly storytelling style that camouflages the layers of story and the depth of her themes.  You may toss one of her books against the wall but you won’t forget the story or characters.  :)

    I’ve only read a few of Jane Porter’s Harlequin Presents books.  They were rather good.  I hear Jane’s next Women’s Fiction may blend her talents for both styles of storytelling. 

    On another note, I am neither big city nor small town.  I’ve lived in both they are very similar!  I prefer the diversity, challenge and sparkle that can be found in suburban locales around small cities.

  13. 13

    I’m actually in the middle of reading this book right now (and liking it so far!) but now I am just itching to jump to the last 1/4” of the book and see what you are talking about! haha

  14. 14
    Mrs. Hanson says:

    I think the idea of moving from a big city to a small town isn’t for the town, per se; it’s to move back where you came from, to be close(r) to your family, so perhaps you have help when you need it. 

    I was intrigued by this novel but, after reading Flirting with Forty, decided I didn’t want to read those books where Shey is a secondary character.  (And I too want to know what the plot twist is.)

  15. 15
    Lady T says:

    Well,I liked this book a bit more than Sarah did(and no,I won’t reveal the big plot twister,altho it didn’t seem that out of left field to me) but I get her dissatisfaction with some of the sub plots being handled off screen.

    It didn’t bother me because the main focus of the book was Shey figuring out what she wanted to do with her life after coming to these emotional crossroads and while I love seeing bullies trounced,that would have been a completely different book altogether,IMO.

    This is only the second Jane Porter novel I’ve read(the first one for me was Odd Mom Out,plus I got to interview her for my blog-full disclosure!) but I had a good time reading it. Also,I kept picturing Dylan Walsh from Nip/Tuck as Dane(not the most obvious choice for a former pro bull rider but it worked for me!)

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