EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 12, 2014

'Mud Season' worth a read

“Mud Season” by Ellen Stimson

c.2013, The Countryman Press; $23.95; 253 pages

Sometimes, you just need a change.

Life becomes same-old, same-old and that’s boring. You need to shake things up. Get out of your rut. Do something different.

Sometimes you need to surprise yourself or, as author Ellen Stimson says in her new book “Mud Season,” you need to go shopping at the “Life Store.” Just beware of what’s in your cart.

Back when Ellen Stimson’s family was young, Stimson and her husband got a rare chance at a real vacation, so they flew from their St. Louis home to Vermont. She’d always dreamed of seeing the famed New England fall and when she did, she was absolutely in love with it.

She never forgot the beauty of Vermont so, when her children were older and wondering if they could really live anywhere they wanted, being a Vermonter suddenly wasn’t just a pipe-dream. It could be reality - so they moved to Dorset.

But life in small-town New England wasn’t as idyllic as Stimson had envisioned. Her first mistake was to import “foreigners” (a work crew from St. Louis) to remodel the Victorian home she and her husband bought. That didn’t endear them to the locals, nor did their decision to home-school their youngest son. Their fussy-yuppie chicken coop was cause for gossip. When the family bought the local Country Store and (gasp!) moved the bread, it seemed to be the final straw.

But though the locals appeared to be tight-knit and reticent, there were pockets of kindness that Stimson saw: a church minister with a sense of humor visited the family often. A local constable was compassionate during a silly, embarrassing moment. The family got a lamb and lessons in shepherding from a farmer-friend.

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