Elevate Difference

The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter

Holly Robinson begins this book by saying that, essentially, this is a story she has never told. That this is a story she didn’t want to talk about. I am so glad she did.

I am not much for holding back information about my own life and it is completely unfathomable to me how anyone could manage to grow up with a father who raised, became an expert on, and built an empire out of gerbils. I suppose if one was squeamish about having others think you were quirky or odd, you might hesitate, but the story of Robinson’s childhood growing up with a retired Navy captain-turned gerbil farmer is absolutely delightful in its implausibility. I, for one, would not only share the story, but wear it like a badge of honor. I hope she does now that the word is out!

Robinson’s writing is conversational and comfortable. It was like listening to an old friend roll her eyes as she recalled the things her ignorant, dorky parents used to do. We all had embarrassing parents growing up, and it is simply lovely to read about someone whose family was undoubtedly weirder than your own. For anyone who still has secrets locked away in her closet, frightened that her friends or her children or her children’s friends might someday discover, The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter is a huge sigh of relief.

Robinson, while no doubt mortified by her father’s obsession with gerbils, was also mystified by her mother’s tacit refusal to have anything to do with them. She was raised by two individuals who, for all their weaknesses, modeled the notion of following your dreams for their children. Those dreams didn’t necessarily coincide or even complement each other, but Robinson may have benefited heartily from her mother’s example that a wife need not blindly follow her husband’s ambitions, military leader or no.

This story is a lighthearted, entertaining read and Robinson does a lovely job of reminding us that there is no such thing as a “normal” childhood.

Written by: Kari O’Driscoll, August 19th 2010