Jake Keiser’s debut memoir, Daffodil Hill, is about the life she once dreamed of having, the life she had to leave behind to achieve it, and all the heartache and salvation that she stumbled upon along the way. During the last year of her thirties and after her divorce from an emotionally abusive husband, Jake Keiser was once again navigating her way through another devastating breakup from a relationship she’d held high hopes for. Meeting her friends for brunch, bringing along her trusted purse-dog, Kahuna, and spending thousands of dollars in retail therapy was helping assist with her loneliness. Essentially, she was living a life that was satisfying on the surface, but underneath it all she fostered a deep, dark secret: a spreadsheet bursting with a list of all the animals she’d buy for her dream farm. In the wee hours when her anxiety wouldn’t allow her to rest, she’d stealthily log on to her account at MyPetChicken.com and search breeds for hours, adding them to her cart, but never following through with the purchase.
Until, one day, she did.
Keiser was living a cushy lifestyle in Tampa Bay when her stepmother approached her with the idea of buying a farm near Oxford, Mississippi – a small college/farm town with a fraction of the population of Tampa and a lifestyle entirely opposite of what she’d been used to. After making the spontaneous decision, she relocated her high-powered, successful PR firm to the farm and for years worked in secret from her secure location in Mississippi – watching the chickens and turkeys waddle outside her window while she fit in conference calls and researched the mating habits of goats and geese. As the title of Keiser’s blog states, she went from “Gucci to Goats,” and one day at a time learned how to become more self-reliant.
The book, like her life, was filled with moments of absolute gut-wrenching sorrow, and other moments were riddled with so much raucous ridiculousness of a city girl dealing with all these farm animals that it was impossible not to laugh out loud. A prime example: “I calmly escorted the goats away from my workstation and sat back down on the porch swing to resume my attention to the call. That was when Valentina raised the stakes. She must have walked around to the other side of the porch because suddenly she was behind me, chewing at my hair… As I took notes, she proceeded to rub her face on my arm as if it were her personal scratching post.” Even amongst stories of divorce, miscarriage, sexual abuse, and loss, there is no shortage of these comedic anecdotes that not only helped lift the mood of the book, but undoubtedly were factors in lifting Keiser’s mood in her darkest moments.
Daffodil Hill is a journey of growth, faith, self-reliance, and preservation. Just as she watches her fledglings grow or her goats give birth, just as the daffodils explode from the earth each spring or the garden gives her fresh produce planted by her own hands, this book is a literal journey of progression – learning to not only bloom, but also thrive amongst everything life hands to you. When watching her new geese acquaint themselves with her pond, Keiser says, “None of us spoke. These creatures, who had never seen water before, instinctively knew this pond was their home. Just one hour prior, they had been landlocked animals. Then, after enduring a traumatic event, they were delivered into the life they were born to live. I couldn’t help but hope the same would happen to me.”
Just like Keiser first embarking on her journey as a farm owner, the book itself had a few hiccups at the outset, making it a little difficult to fully engage. She supplied plenty of superficial information about the sociable lifestyle she once lived, but gave only brief glimpses into her life with abusive partners and the losses that came with them. As Keiser found her rhythm, though, she was able to dive deeper into the heart of what the book is about – the resilience and determination of starting over – instead of dancing around these pivotal topics. Stripping away the surface-level minutia allowed the reader to become more invested in the second half of the novel and it was worth the effort to get there.
Through friends, family, unexpected love interests, and, above all, her animals, Keiser’s journey is a lesson in autonomy and strength. This book will make you laugh, it will make you cry, but above all, it will hopefully allow you to believe in yourself and the potential within you waiting to unfold.
By Jake Keiser
Published June 7, 2022