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Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 11, 2013

4.1 out of 5 stars 155 customer reviews

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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


Praise for Mardi Jo Link’s Bootstrapper
“Link’s story possesses that rare, elusive, but much sought-after feeling of authenticity . . . Glints with Link’s raw, willful energy.”
            —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 buy day-old bread, patronize libraries, rarely go to movies, and don't need your sympathy. Just a break now and then.”
            —Garrison Keillor
 “Hilarious, wrenching and heartwarming, Link’s poignant memoir chronicles one woman’s determination to discover meaning and wholeness in the midst of brokenness. It’s almost as if Cheryl Strayed had stayed down on the farm instead of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.”
"Electric, candid . . . A country song of a memoir, complete with a broken-down truck named Cookie. It's great fun to listen to once, full blast." 
            —San Francisco Chronicle

"Many memoirs about the trauma of divorce are available today, but none of them is as dynamic as Mardi Jo Link's fittingly titled Bootstrapper."
            —Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“You’ll fall in love with Mardi Jo Link’s family in this irreverent and heartwarming memoir depicting her heroic fight to hold on to her northern Michigan farm and the simple way of life she wants to preserve for her three young sons.”

“A potent cocktail of ingenuity and humor . . . about a mother’s fierce love and the sustaining fabric of family . . . Direct, funny, void of self-pity, and exceedingly humane.”
            —Kirkus Reviews
“Tough, honest, and appealing . . . will appeal to the bootstrapper in all of us.”
“Funny . . . honest . . . A tale of grit and determination . . . You can’t help but admire the ingenuity of this four-member team, each stepping up during one crisis or another.”
            —New York Journal of Books
 “Beautifully written . . . brutally honest . . . crystallizes the love, the struggles and the loneliness of a single mom.”
 “Link’s hopes, dreams, triumphs, losses, and more are laid bare. But what shone through the brightest was the love for her sons . . . I couldn’t put Bootstrapper down—I was cheering Mardi Jo on with every chapter . . . These are the memoirs I like to read—real people, real life. And she sounds like the kind of person I’d like to visit with on the porch.”
            —A Bookworm’s World
“Mardi Jo Link’s fierce love for her three sons oozes from every page of this ode to tenacity, honesty, authenticity, and creative survival skills . . . She’s always doggedly determined and funny—yes, unceasingly funny . . . Shed a tear or two and laugh out loud as you share the ride that is motherhood with this authentic woman who uses much more than just her boots to pull herself out of misery and insolvency into a life well lived.”
            —Hungry for Good Books?
“Refreshingly powerful . . . Straight from the heart . . . [Link] speaks to the power of self-reliance, while entertaining readers with her tireless defiance and sheer badassery.”
“Irreverent yet poignant . . . humorous and heartwarming.”
            —Traverse City Record-Eagle
“Intriguing . . . Hilarious . . . A fascinating look at Link’s family’s ability to persevere and use assorted, often creative innovations to succeed . . . Great summer reading.”
            —Lansing State Journal
 “Bootstrapper does what only a really good book can do . . . Maybe it’s because of Link’s faith in the future, the kind of self-reliance that puts most of us to shame, or just the enormity of the courage it took to keep her boys’ spirits up . . . but I rooted for her all the way through the book . . . Mardi Link is the woman we all hope we’d be if ever faced with the same trials, with boys to raise, and a new life to lead.”
            —Northern Express
“I love the author’s voice. Funny and self-deprecating, but also heartwarming and hopeful.”
            —Baltimore Fishbowl
 “As a writer and mother, Mardi Jo Link is a true force of nature. This lovely, lyrical memoir of family, farm and faith is as stunningly unforgettable as a Lake Michigan sunset.”
            —Wade Rouse, author of At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream
“In Bootstrapper, memoirist Mardi Jo Link harvests the fruitful moments from her hardscrabble experiences as a single mother and offers up a near endless bounty of vital humor and vivacious humanity. Just you wait, Dear Reader. This book will make a home inside your heart.”
            —Jon Pineda, author of Sleep in Me

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1St Edition edition (June 11, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307596915
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307596918
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #974,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Luanne Ollivier 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!" said Will, the idealist.
Read more ›
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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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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, ("...an 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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Memoirs are a tricky genre, and the market is crowded with women's books which peddle platitudes as wisdom. I loved this honest reflection on living through a personal crisis (divorce and ensuing financial and emotional problems) to the other side of survival which is indeed wisdom: valuing family in whatever configuration it becomes, becoming the authentic self however limited and painful, and rejoicing in the everyday goodness of life itself. This isn't about traveling the world or hiking a trail, but rather how to stay in place, how to be smart enough to sacrifice, how to be strong enough to suffer without giving up, and how a bad sense of humor is absolutely essential through everything. Ms. Link is a superb and spare writer who chronicles a funny and painful year of going through a divorce, and figuring out how to keep her dream of a country place as well as feed her three sons. From the first page her honest and open reflection on how to manage (the garden, the firewood, the chickens, writing deadlines, the flu), what to believe (Zen, inherited Christianity, gratitude, humility), and whom to trust (protecting children, protecting parents, protecting friends) drew me in. As a Midwesterner I have been waiting for someone to chronicle the sheer beauty of the Michigan outdoors, our demonic work ethic and pride, our understated intelligence, and our underlying optimism that the world is better than we ourselves. The country life is essential to this book, but it is not about raising chickens or dogs or horses. Divorce is the underlying cause of the book, but it is not only about that loss. The book is a conversation with a funny, wise, and articulate friend about raising children, meeting aging parent's expectations, outsmarting your creditors, and maintaining your sense of wonder.Read more ›
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