I think I might have already admitted here that I do enjoy the occasional romance novel (and if not, then I guess I’ve outed myself) though it’s the true-life romantic stories that I really love reading about. When I heard about Ree Drummon’s new memoir, The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, I couldn’t wait to read it. It sounded like just the kind of the story that I would enjoy.
In The Pioneer Woman Ree recounts the events that led to her, a staunch city-girl, to unexpectedly fall head over-heels in love with a cowboy, marry him and begin life as a rancher's wife.
After spending several years in LA, soaking in the Big-City culture, Ree Drummon was back at home in Oklahoma for a short while, trying to decide what to do next. Ree quickly determined that Chicago would be a good place to settle down and pursue a professional career, and so that’s where she was headed when her plans took an unexpected turn. While hanging out with some friends at the local bar, Ree caught sight of a handsome cowboy and she went over to say hello. The two of them ended up chatting for hours, and when the cowboy took his leave, Ree was certain that she would be hearing from him soon.
But when several weeks passed with no word from the cowboy, Ree determined to put him out of her mind and go ahead with her plans of moving to Chicago. She had all of her boxes packed up, and an apartment in Chicago rented, when the call came. It was Ree’s cowboy (who she refers to as Marlboro Man) and he wanted to take her out. Despite the impracticality of the situation, Ree couldn’t resist the deep, gravelly voice on the line, and she agreed. One date led to another and before she knew it Ree was in-love.
But Ree was not yet ready to give up on her big-city plans, and her parent’s sudden announcement that they were getting divorced only reinforced Ree’s doubts about her own romantic relationship.
While it’s no secret that Ree did end up with her happily-ever-after ending, as her popular blog, The Pioneer Woman, can attest to, in her book she tells us about how she got there. Ree had actually begun writing her story on her blog, and seeing how much interest it generated, she decided to turn it into a book.
The problem is that successful blog posts do not necessarily work as well when transfered to the pages of a book. From reviews that I have read about The Pioneer Woman it seems that the first 3/4 of the book is exactly the same content as the blog posts, leaving many of her blog followers that purchased it disappointed at not being offered anything new. Since I was not a previous reader of The Pioneer Woman blog this wasn’t an issue for me but my trouble with the book is simply that it was not written very well. No - actually, it was that the book wasn’t edited very well. The prose were fine but the content was very repetitive and there was a lot here that should have been cut out, either because it was already stated or because it was irrelevant.
It wasn’t necessary to keep telling us about Ree’s ex-boyfriend and his faults or about the fact that she used to be a vegetation and now ate meat. Ree would also have done well to tone down the frequent whining about her parent's divorce and the unhappiness it was causing her because it was irritating and made her seem like a spoiled, self-absorbed child. If I were Ree’s editor I probably would have also left out the scene where she kills the family dog and then runs off to prepare for her date, or all the times she turns down her disabled brother’s requests for rides to the mall.
And if I were Ree’s editor, after cutting out all of these bits, I would have encouraged Ree to talk a bit more about her friends and her family, who are pretty much left in the shadows. If it wasn’t for Ree’s insistence that she is a very friendly and sociable person I would assume that she is a loner since she never seems to speak to, or spend time with, anyone other than The Marlboro Man (who, to my frustration, is never referred to by name).
I kept wondering where her parents were, as Ree was moving back home, packing for Chicago and falling-in-love. What did they think about the new man in Ree’s life? Did Ree talk to them about him at all? It’s not until Ree’s parents announce their divorce that they are allowed onto the stage, and from then on we only get to know them as the “troubled married couple" casting shadows over their daughter’s happiness, which seemed rather unfair to them.
When I went to check out Ree’s blog, after finishing her book, I was surprised to discover that she is actually quite close to her parents and siblings, which I never would have guess from her memoir, and is very devoted to the family dog (whose photograph appears frequently on her site). She is also funny, smart and very personable and I was confused why this doesn't really comes across in her book.
One sentiment that does shine through, in both her blog and her book, is Ree’s unabashed love and adoration for her cowboy, The Marlboro Man. And this is what makes the book worth reading; getting a taste of what real romance is like. Yes, Ree does go on a little too much about how wonderful her man is and how well muscled his biceps are, and it’s not necessary to include so many date scenes of the two of them cuddling on the couch, but it was still really sweet.
I actually ended up skimming through a large portion of the The Pioneer Woman, until I got to the last section, where the book suddenly and vastly improves. Here Ree humorously recounts for us the details of her disastrous honeymoon, which was cut short, and the start of her new life on the Ranch. I really enjoyed this section of the book and regretted that the rest of it hadn’t been written in the same way. I also really regretted that the book ends right after the birth of Ree’s first child since I would have loved to read more about her adjustments to motherhood and Ranch life. If I were her editor there would have been plenty of room for this additional material.
So what can I say? The romantic in me loves Ree’s story and is willing to forgive the mistakes she made in writing it. I’m even eager to read her next one (and I’m sure there will be a next one) after seeing how much the book improves towards the end. Though at the same time I would probably recommend anyone who wants to read The Pioneer Woman to get it out of the library, rather than purchasing it, because you might end up skimming through a lot of it, as I did.
And Ree, if you are looking for some assistance in editing your next book, I’m always available.