In Her Boots by KJ Dell’Antonia is a warm-hearted novel about friendship, broken families, and how someone can be incredibly strong and full of self-doubt at the same time.
Rhett Smith has worked her way around the globe doing all manner of jobs. In high school, with the help of her best friend Jasmine, she created a superhero persona – Modern Pioneer Girl. When Rhett left college to travel, it was Modern Pioneer Girl (MPG) who stepped up when her money ran out and she needed a job. For MPG, when in a tough spot, all that was needed was a plan, two strong arms, and pluck.
With Jasmine’s encouragement she shared her experiences abroad on Instagram. Her following at first was small and she used the postings for self-affirmation when in tight spots. Her followers grew and she was approached to turn those posts and her adventures into a book. Published under the pen name Maggie Strong, The Modern Pioneer Girl’s Guide to Life, has made Rhett famous. Well she would be famous if anyone other than Jasmine knew that Rhett was Maggie Strong.
After twenty years, a bad breakup, and the death of her grandmother, Rhett is coming home. Home is a farm right outside Bowford, New Hampshire. She grew up on the farm with her father and Grandma Bee. With Grandma Bee’s death Rhett expects to inherit the farm and restore it to what it was when she was growing up.
After her arrival in New York City she stops to visit Jasmine before heading on to Bowford. Of course Jasmine posts that MPG is in New York and Rhett immediately gets an invitation to be on the Today show the next morning. Her automatic response is no but somehow Jasmine talks her into saying yes.
Dressed very un-Rhett-like in a skirt and Jasmine’s cowboy boots they arrive at the studio. She is resigned to appearing until she finds out she’ll be on with another author, her estranged mother. Rhett hasn’t seen her mother, Margaret Gallagher, in twenty years and in a panic she identifies Jasmine as Maggie Strong. Jasmine agrees to appear and the segment ends abruptly when disaster strikes Margaret.
Upon arrival in Bowford, Rhett finds the farm is in worse shape than she expected. The next hit comes when an old flame, Mike, appears along with her mother. They have plans to sell the farm to the adjacent university where Margaret is president and build a welcome center. Rhett of course is not selling but what she wants may not matter. The farm wasn’t her grandmother’s. Upon her death it goes jointly to Margaret and Rhett, and Margaret is the controlling trustee.
To save her inheritance Rhett must get the farm in working order ASAP and find $250,000.00 to buy her mother’s half. When Jasmine shows up to help, things get even more complicated. Because the Today show incident went viral everyone thinks Jasmine is MPG. But Jasmine knows next to nothing about farming and possesses none of the skills MPG posted about as she worked her various jobs while traveling the world. Skills that are needed to restore a rundown farm.
Rhett needs to tell everyone the true identity of MPG but can she? All of Modern Pioneer Girls’ adventures and accomplishments over the last twenty years Rhett sees as separate from herself. The bravery and pluck are not Rhett, it’s her alter ego’s. Emotionally she is the child her mother abandoned. She hides behind her alter ego and reacts to her mother and others with the resentment and insecurity of that abandoned child.
Rhett wants to keep the farm and her secret but in doing so she risks losing all that matters most. Can she reconcile the two parts of herself and forgive before it’s too late?
With likeable characters and some quirky animals this title is recommended for fans of The Pioneer Woman and Eat, Love, Pray. The library has it in both regular and large print editions.
Review written by Patty Crane, Reference Librarian