A transplant takes root in Farmville

Published 2:28 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Karen Bellenir moved to Farmville with her husband in 2009. Since then, she has been a regular contributor to The Farmville Herald. Her popular column, “Happy to Be Here,” has appeared within its pages on a monthly basis.

Now, a book containing a compilation of her first seven years’ worth of columns is available. “Happy to Be Here: A Transplant Takes Root in Farmville, Virginia,” will officially go on sale Sept. 15. The Sleeping Bee, 301 N. Main St., at the corner of Second Street, will host a book signing event Saturday, Sept. 17 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. The public is invited to come meet the author and share stories about why they’re happy to be here, too.

The collection of columns describes what happens when someone from a northern city’s suburbs packs up and moves to the rural south. Bellenir’s account reports on finding her place in the life of a small town, making connections, growing new roots and learning about the culture and the environment here in the Heart of Virginia.

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It didn’t always go smoothly, especially at dinner. Bellenir firmly resolves, “I will not eat pig feet. I’ve been informed that these are called trotters and that they are especially fine when pickled. I’m sorry, but I agree with another transplant to the area who commented: I know where they’ve been.”

Sometimes reality forced her to reconsider cherished notions. “I used to think mice were cute,” she says. “My mental image focused on furry little bodies, oversized ears, and earnest eyes. Small and fluffy. Tiny pink toes and little pink noses.” In other words, the stuff of greeting cards. Rural experience revealed mice to be costly eating machines that even chewed on expensive car parts.

At other times, Bellenir found herself awed by the region’s natural beauty, moved by the town’s earnest efforts to overcome mistakes of the past and inspired by the people who welcomed her with open arms and open hearts.

Marge Swayne, contributor to The Farmville Herald and Farmville the Magazine, talks about the book in this way: “Karen Bellenir likes cows. There’s one on the cover of her book, ‘Happy to be Here,’ and yes, she still likes cows even after a close encounter on High Bridge Trail. Making the cow’s acquaintance, Bellenir noted, was not the ‘mooooving’ experience she expected; in fact, the cow was not moving at all. Fortunately, High Bridge Trail’s chief ranger, Craig Guthrie, came to the rescue. ‘The cow probably knows exactly where she’s supposed to be,’ he said. The cow did, and all ended well. That, and many other ‘happy-to-be-heres,’ make Bellenir’s book a delight. It’s impossible to read without saying to yourself at least once, ‘You know what — I’m happy to be here, too!’”

The book presents a collection of 84 columns arranged in a topical order loosely following the calendar year. It begins with a prelude answering the question: “Why Farmville?” Then its pages turn to celebrations of the New Year, the unfurling of seasons and encounters along the way. A postlude concludes, “Still Happy, Grateful Too.”

Bob Flippen, proprietor of Southside Virginia Historical Press said, “For years, I have read these delightful essays by Karen Bellenir regarding her transformation into a Southsider. She provides an outsider’s insight that is admirable and inspiring with plenty of knee slapping humor that makes it just plain fun to read.”

Jordan Miles, senior staff writer with The Farmville Herald, says, “Karen’s words provide a true glimpse of the culture, people, places and events that make up the Heart of Virginia. Her writing offers a sense of home to those who were born and raised in this area and to those who relocated here. In a world filled with news of violence and strife, her prose offers a new light onto community and how people interact with each other.”

In addition to The Sleeping Bee, the book will be available through the Pier Press website (www.PierPress.com) and from other online booksellers for $14.95 for the paperback version and $9.99 for the eBook version.