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Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm Paperback – April 8, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In a heart-wrenching, heartwarming, and invigorating memoir, author and farmer Link struggles following her divorce to hold on to the life she had built. Link is not, as her ex-husband had taunted, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, but she is resilient, resourceful, and determined in her efforts to save the farm and make a living for herself and her three sons. Although they are facing distressingly difficult times, they soldier on through calamities of all sizes, often finding unorthodox solutions to such unusual problems as a broken freezer that stores all their winter meat, an overly amorous rooster, and a Christmas tree utterly lacking in the proper equipment. Link’s pride in her sons and the life they have made shines throughout the book and is obviously well deserved. Neither sugarcoated nor wallowing in self-pity, Link’s storytelling is as tough, honest, and unyielding as one would expect from a Michigan farmer. Her account, told with humor and panache, of pulling oneself up after disappointment and loss will appeal to the bootstrapper in all of us. --Bridget Thoreson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Winner of The Michigan Notable Book Award * The Housatonic Book Award
The GREAT LAKES, GREAT READS Booksellers' Choice Award 

“Glints with Link's raw, willful energy. . . . Possesses that rare, elusive, but much sought-after feeling of authenticity.”
     —The New York Times Book Review

“A heroic-comic saga of single motherhood, pure stubbornness, and the loyalty of three young sons. And more than that, an honest account of the working poor, the people who . . . don't need your sympathy. Just a break now and then.”
     —Garrison Keillor

“A country song of a memoir, complete with a broken-down truck named Cookie. It's great fun to listen to . . . full blast.”
     —San Francisco Chronicle
 “You’ll fall in love with Mardi Jo Link’s family in this irreverent and heartwarming memoir.”

“Inspirational and funny in the I-might-as-well-laugh-or-I-think-I’ll-cry sort of way.”
     —Detroit Free Press

“Dynamic. . . . Throws a wrench, or in this case a pitchfork, into the saga of the newly single mother. . . . Link’s snappy writing turns this potentially familiar story into a new kind of survivalist country song.”
     —Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Hilarious, wrenching, and heartwarming . . . Chronicles one woman’s determination to discover meaning and wholeness in the midst of brokenness.”

“A tale of grit and determination. . . . In reading Bootstrapper other single parents might feel solidarity in the shared experience of struggle—may even derive strength.”
     —New York Journal of Books

“Link’s style of writing is like her style of living—direct, funny, void of self-pity and exceedingly humane. . . . This is a book about a mother’s fierce love and the sustaining fabric of family; yet, just beneath is a powerful subtext about the value of work.”
     —Kirkus Reviews

“Tough, honest . . . Will appeal to the bootstrapper in all of us.”

“As much triumph as tragedy. . . . Both humorous and heartwarming.” 
     —Traverse City (Michigan) Record-Eagle

“Poignant, funny. . . . Filled with the kind of joy only a tough-minded mother could bring to her kids.”
     —Northern Express

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307743586
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307743589
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (149 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,415 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mardi Link was born in Detroit and grew up in the state's southeastern suburbs, spending summers up north on Lake Michigan. The only daughter of educators, she attended Michigan State University's school of journalism, and has worked as a police and general assignment reporter, magazine editor, and freelance writer. Her first book, When Evil Came to Good Hart, was published in 2008 by the University of Michigan Press and spent four months on the Heartland Bestseller List.

Her second book, Isadore's Secret, was published in 2009 also by the University of Michigan Press, and chronicles the mysterious disappearance of a Felician nun from her convent in 1907. It was named a Michigan Notable Book, a Great Lakes Great Read, and also spent several months on the Heartland Bestseller List.

Mardi's latest work is a forthcoming memoir from Knopf. She lives with her husband and three sons on a hobby farm near Traverse City, Michigan.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Luanne Ollivier TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Bootstrapper: to promote or develop by initiative and effort with little or no assistance --- Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Mardi Jo Link is living the life she always dreamed of - three amazing young sons and the opportunity to raise them in the countryside in a beautiful old farmhouse sitting on six acres. And yes, there was a husband too - but with divorce now a certainty, Mardi Jo is determined to hang onto her sons, her house and her land - by herself.

"I'm claiming my sons, the farm, the debt, the other debt, the horses, the dogs, and the land. I'm claiming our century-old farmhouse, the garden, the woods, the pasture, the barn, and the Quonset-hut garage. They're all mine now, and this is how I will raise my boys: on cheerful summer days and well water and BB guns and horseback riding and dirt. Because I'm claiming our whole country life, the one I've been dreaming of and planning out and working for since I was a little girl."

And this is where the bootstrapping comes into play -for Link is working with next to nothing in the way of finances. And wants to do it on her own - "I made this bed and I'll either lie in it or die in it, but I won't ask anyone for help."

Mardi Jo details the physical ups and downs - the day to day business of providing, but Bootstrapper also reads like a personal diary with Link's hopes, dreams, triumphs, losses and more laid bare. But what shone through the brightest was the love for her sons. These are the passages that stayed with me the longest. There are struggles, but the love and support they feel for each other is tangible. And quite humorous at times.

""Boys," I announced, "we're going to raise some chickens."
"Another pet to play with!
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33 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Catherine Jo Morgan VINE VOICE on May 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I expected to enjoy this book a lot, based on the title, subtitle ("From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm") and the blurb from the publisher, (" extraordinary account....")

I did finish it, but all the time I was reading this book, I was waiting for something that never came. I'm afraid the experience was more like listening patiently to a friend tell about all the stuff going wrong in her life -- when you're listening because, hey, that's what friends do. A lot of this book seemed sort of whomped up, hyberbole, so there was a sense of "drama queen" here. Granted, a lot did go wrong and there were plenty of challenges. The author succeeded in what she set out to do. If the whole thing were toned down a bit -- to lower the reader's expectations -- I think it would have come off better.

In this kind of memoir, I look for real humor, compassion and a deeper level of understanding -- new insights, new patterns, an expansion of awareness. I want the book to open up something new for me, change me in what feels like a good way. In other words, I want something besides what I read here.

This book isn't badly written, and no author can be expected to write as well early on, as after the first seven or eight books. So I hope this author doesn't give up. But -- I wouldn't recommend spending money to buy this one.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By D. R. Evans on August 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Hugely disappointed in this book. From the title "Bootstrapper - From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm," I was expecting a heart felt story of a woman, who through pure resourcefullness, grit and determination pulls herself out of near poverty and into a gleaming future. Not so. This is a memoir of a woman who has serious problems - divorce (thought never clear why she initiated the disolution of a 20 yr. marriage), near poverty (she has no full time source of income, only freelance writing gigs), and questionable judgement in more ways than I can recount. I couldn't get past her whiny, snarky attitude towards her ex-husband, nor could I condone her letting her kids live so poorly (frequently out of food, shopping only at Goodwill for clothing, wearing coats and mittens to eat breakfast because she hasn't paid the heat bills) and on and on. She never clearly explains how she managed to "save" the farm, other than selling off several neighboring acres and re-financing a mortgage. I also expected the farm to be a working farm, not a country home with a vegetable garden, two horses and a couple outbuildings. Heck, when she tried to raise chickens, she didn't even have the nerve to slaughter them for meat! She gave them away instead. The book ends here, somewhat abruptly. The epilogue takes us 4 years into the future to her second wedding. I wish I could have liked it, but it was not was I expected at all.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By booklass VINE VOICE on May 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book was given to me for my review.
SPOILERS!!--Mardi Jo Link's book, Bootsrapper, is about a suddenly single woman, her three sons, and a farm. To be more specific, it is about a broke, single mother, three very charming sons, and a farm that is alternately an albatross and a Utopia.
Link begins her story with the separation from her husband, for reasons only hinted at in her journal-like recollections until further into the story. The story is hampered by vagueness at times, and I think part of it was understandably for privacy's sake. At other times, I felt that she was caught up in the weediness of too many words to describe how SHE perceived an event, forgetting that the reader needs enough details to come to see the event in the whole. I wanted to shout, "Okay! I get it, but what actually HAPPENED?"
For example, there was the incident with the horse, which was upsetting to read about. I might have been even more sympathetic toward Link's feelings, if I knew what really happened with that whole incident. While I pondered that, suddenly, there is a stray dog she's never seen before, and she calls it "a killer" and wants to "take the dog down" with a BB gun, then "finish him off" with the golf club. I abhor animal cruelty, and I was repulsed. What's more, I couldn't figure out why she came to this macabre conclusion about the animal. I went back, reread, and I still am not sure what I missed.

There were other moments in the story, when I wondered who was the adult in the family and who were the children. Some of Link's decisions were questionable, but I often felt considerable empathy for the circumstances Link was forced to make them in. Link was given a raw hand, and she just as often played it well.
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