The Turkey Farm

Who would think that a lifestory or memoir would be co-authored? Rather surprisingly some excellent ones are. I recently finished reading The Turkey Farm – Behind the Smile, a gripping memoir about Jennifer Keefe’s life. Jennifer survived, among other things, the brutal murder of her mother, being raised by the hippie farmer and occasional drug dealer her mother didn’t get around to marrying after she divorced Jen’s alcoholic father, early exposure to drugs, endless betrayals by family members and her first husband, and facing down her mother’s murderer. In the end, it is a story of triumph. You can read my formal review of the book on the Story Circle Network book review site.

Quite aside from the content, this memoir is worth mentioning for many reasons. Among them is the fact that it is co-authored with Cheryl Archer, Jennifer’s best friend, whom she has known since grade school. In an account on, the electronic arm of The Citizen of Laconia (NH), the women tell of their adventures in writing the book.

The idea began when they were nineteen and wanted to capture Jen’s “stranger than fiction” story on paper. It took over fifteen years and lots of additional life experience to come to fruition. Jen still had a lot of life lessons to learn, and in the process of working with Cheryl to clarify things in her past, the story became a “journey to forgiveness” rather than an expose.

That’s not to say the story treads lightly on any topics. As you’ll read in the review, Jen’s stepfather sued unsuccessfully to prevent the book from being published, and her birth family members surely squirmed when they read it. For various reasons explained in the book, none were willing to take Jen and her brothers into their homes and raise them after their mother died. Her disclosures are brave and true, written from a witnessing point of view rather than one of blame. It took guts to go public with that material in any circumstances, and hopefully her courage will inspire others.

Jennifer’s life was changed by insight and forgiveness as a result of her collaboration with Cheryl, but Cheryl found reward enough of her own. What could be more rewarding than to see your best friend “wake up”, confront the demons of her past, and triumph over them to become radiantly happy, with a plan for her future. “It was the best gift I could give her,” she says. And perhaps the best gift she could give herself.

This book, which can be ordered from this webpage, has many lessons to offer, and for our purposes here, I’ll highlight these:
  • The healing value of life story writing. The entire writing process was valuable, and an impromptu writing tip Cheryl gave Jen led to the final resolution of her anger and allowed forgiveness to rise from the ashes of her despair.
  • The value of teamwork. Although anyone can write something, and anything you write is better than writing nothing, some are endowed with a more powerful gift for writing than others. Cheryl has far more of this gift than Jen. Jen lived the story, Chery put the pieces together to “find” the story.
  • The power of persistence. Although it took over fifteen years, and countless obstacles arose, they never gave up.
  • The satisfaction of helping another. Cheryl has seen the transformation of her best friend, and what could be more satisfying than knowing she played such a role in bringing that about? Cheryl is continuing to write other things now.
After reading this book and thinking deeply about it, I’m considering volunteering for one of the many Hospice programs in our region to help capture deathbed life stories. Perhaps you can think of ways to use your writing skills to benefit your friends or family members.

Write now: some memories and thoughts about someone you care deeply about, friend or family member, who may benefit from your help in getting their lifestory written. Is there some way you can share your gift for writing to help this person tell his or her story?


Linda Austin said...

After the beauty of writing my mother's memoir with her, I really want to work with another elderly Japanese woman to get her amazing story down and also my 94-yr-old neighbor. So much to do, so worthwhile and no time to waste here!

Ritergal said...

Ah, Linda, what a beautiful intention. And so it shall be. Vaya con Dios! Or maybe in this case that should be "Escribas con Dios"! Write with God.

Pat's Place said...

Nice review and great testimony for the value of life writing. So many women I have met through SCN have told me about the value of writing as they confronted their dragons in life. It has been a gift to witness the beauty of writing one's story.

Bonnie said...

Greetings. I'm not sure how I came across your blog, but, the short portions that I have read thus far, have been of interest to me. I was moved by the video you shared on 9/29. I will check back often and dig deeper when I have an opportunity. Just wanted to introduce myself!


Ritergal said...

Thanks for stopping by Bonnie. I hope you find lots more helpful information.

Elizabeth said...

I'm going to check this one out.