‘The Unlikely Lavender Queen’ by Jeannie Ralston
There’s no substitute for a good book. It brings us back to our quiet selves, to the present moment, to the paper between our fingers. And it can send us away from ourselves, into places and lives that we may never encounter in real life.
Here’s one for you to pick up: Jeannie Ralston’s The Unlikely Lavender Queen: A Memoir of Unexpected Blossoming. It’s a really wonderful read. (And I’m very picky.)
Jeannie Ralston was a chic young freelance writer in New York City when she met and married Robb Kendrick, a National Geographic photographer. She follows him to Texas and before long they begin the state’s first commercial lavender farm. At first, the rural life stymies her urban self-image and stalls her career goals. But ultimately, she embraces her life in Blanco, welcoming visitors to cut their own lavender and advising other aspiring growers.
The Unlikely Lavender Queen is actually three books in one.
First, it’s the Texas version of Under the Tuscan Sun. Writer heads to the country, renovates old farmhouse, finds the life of her dreams. (I an a sucker for this story, in all its incarnations. I’ve read the Italian original, the French version, the Australian version, and now the Texan version. And I live the Wimberley version.)
Second, it’s a how-to book for entrepreneurs. When Ralston accepts responsibility for running the lavender business, she goes at it full throttle. There’s a thing or two or three to be learned from her marketing savvy.
Third, it’s a woman’s memoir. Ralston’s life, like most women’s lives, is complicated. She accedes to her husband’s desires over her own, and is left alone with the kids and business much of the time as he travels the world on assignment. She faces post-partum depression. She gets over-involved in the local community, all the while bemoaning the fact that she’s not getting any writing done. Ralston doesn’t whitewash her life. The lavender fields may be picture-perfect, but her life is messy and contradictory. It’s a struggle to acclimate, both literally and metaphorically. And in the end, when she reaches that unexpected blossoming, having succeeded in building the lavender business and growing to love it, her husband decides that he is going to sell the farm. Are you kidding me?
Is it a flaw or a virtue that Ralston keeps following her husband’s lead? Obviously, between the end of this memoir (they move to Mexico) and the publication of the book, she did manage to return to the writing life and produce this book. Now, that’s a part of the story I’m really curious to read.
(BTW, Ralston will be leading a “Lavender Queen Tour” of the Texas Hill Country on June 12. I’m tempted . . .)