If you are looking for a compelling and potentially life-changing summer read in the sea of so-so fiction and memoirs, do I have good news. Milk and Honey Land: A Story of Grief, Grace, and Goats, a memoir by new author J.M. Huxley, is a thrilling ride. It is stranger than fiction. If I hadn’t known Huxley for years and actually been a part of the editing team, I don’t know if I’d even believe her tales.
From a storytelling standpoint, Huxley demonstrates an extraordinary gift as she crafts the tale of the first half-century of her life.
From an historical standpoint, the details of growing up in the 70s and 80s–and recounting some of her mid-1900s familial roots in Southern California–are fascinating. Spending everyday life with famous people, realizing the president doesn’t have to use stamps when he corresponds with your grandmother, and sprouting from a soil rich in art and architecture, Huxley creates a backdrop few of us can imagine. Yet as a contemporary of mine, her memories are particularly sweet as she recalls Gunne Sax prom dresses, ice skating lessons, Saturday morning cartoons, and the innocence of a little girl whose life was streaked with color and love.
From a literary standpoint, the themes and structure of the book are breathtaking. Moving from her dynamic but tragic young life, through a successful career and tumultuous first marriage, and transitioning from a bone-deep city girl to a midwestern homeschooling homesteader, she weaves the threads of the story seamlessly.
From a philosophical standpoint, you can’t help but learn a new bit of applicable wisdom from her punchlines and one-liners, like these:
Positive thinking alone, I now see, is like trying to hold the sun in my hands while standing naked and isolated on an icy, windy plain. I’d rather turn into it, letting it warm me from above, while God holds the heavy for me and wraps me warm in his tender care.
My faith is sometimes like a lottery ticket I know I won’t win tossed into a scrap drawer just in case I do.
There’s no point in lamenting the repetitiveness of darkness in cycles. It’s part of the journey. I can choose to focus more on this truth than the pain of losing through love.
She prods the reader to consider life’s purpose and to carve out space and time for reflection.
From a spiritual standpoint, Huxley warmly draws you in and unwraps her experiences before you even think to filter them through prejudices and preconceived notions. Her sweet wooing by God himself is convincing and convicting. No matter your spiritual beliefs, I dare you not to be inspired by the losses she has experienced and the hope to which she fervently clings.
Traci Matt is the author of best-selling homeschooling titles, as well as devotional books for the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom. Watch for her first children’s fiction book, The Time Traveling Truesdales, coming soon. If you like The Magic Treehouse and The Boxcar Children, you and your kids will love this new series!