Shucks Mahoney’s #CBRV Review #32: growgirl by Heather Donohue

You’re either in or out when it comes to a memoir of self-development from a former Hollywood actress-turned-pot grower which comes wrapped up with a big heaping of spiritual reckoning. Heather “The Girl from Blair Witch” Donohue left L.A. after burning all her shit and inviting the Universe to bring it on.

You’re either in or out.

If you’re in, and I most certainly was, then this is a gift of a read. It was my reward after having being forced to stop reading for pleasure due to study commitments and I was itching by the end of it. I hadn’t done an exam in ten years, and after cramming facts into my little brain for a couple of weeks I was an anxious mess. The exam finally over (I passed!) and growgirl was nudged back in to my attention. I’d first heard about it through this great interview over at The Awl, and then she got retweeted into my timeline. It was around the same time I encountered a wonderful autobiographical cartoon by Corinne Mucha about grappling with the role of “Spinster“: ‘When we can’t complete the equations that society says leads to happiness… We complete our own equations of worthlessness.’

From that interview:  “When we get too sure of what women “are,” feminism ends up failing….I think adaptability is very different from toughness.”

These two things really rung in my head. I was definitely up for a bit of growgirl, even if I’m about as spiritual as a biscuit, in part because I believe that we need to have more and more diversity in stories about women’s lives and choices; because I think a big part of the Eat, Pray, Love backlash had to do with the tendency to demand one way for women to be, and to not allow for fucking things up. But also, if it’s well written, a memoir is a balm for me when I’m in a certain mood.

The book opens on moving day: Donohue is about to uproot (nb, botanical metaphors are all over this book like onion weed) from her city life and go live in ‘Nuggettown’, inspired by her new boyfriend to grow medical marijuana and live by herself in the country. Idyllic, yeah? All yoga and communing with the soil and being part of the close-knit growing group her boyfriend introduces her to – aka The Community, and if the all-caps make it sound like a cult, there’s a dang good reason why.

Donohue learns, again and again, that to grow is to eat shit. The boyfriend and her split up, acrimoniously, the utopian ideals of The Community aren’t as accepting as she wanted to believe, and the actual practice of growing a crop – The Girls, as they’re known; all plants are female – is a matter requiring constant attention. It’s unforgiving work, and she discovers the wider network of the cannibusiness is male-dominated, the economics are …interesting… and the social cost of having a semi-legal gig is significant. She also fucks up. A lot.

While reading, I kept texting friends about it – I’m not usually terribly evangelical about books, but one like this has such a high gettability factor, I was compelled to let people who I thought would dig it know of it’s existence.  It’s got botany, desire, a very sharp eye for gender relations, many LOLs, and some real insight. Or at least, it did for me. As someone who fucks up herself, on the regular, it sang true. I’m about as likely to go rural as I am to attend Burning Man (her description of the latter is brilliant, even if it’s a low point in Donohue’s personal like – ah, schadenfreude!) But following my heart to this book was the right choice. Thanks, Universe.

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