“He turned the key in the ignition, and with exaggerated slowness, put the pickup truck in gear… For the first time in a very long time he felt he had a chance of moving beyond guilt and anger. Yes, there was history here, but that’s what it was: history.”
Patricia Buschette’s voice broke as she finished reading a page with this passage from her first novel, “Locked Up in Frost.”
“This part of the story — Jens’ decision — is a turning point for me,” the longtime writer says. “I feel his pain in it and empathize deeply as he comes to terms with his past.”
As a mother cares for her child, so does Buschette care for the characters and community she created in her first novel. The book tells the fictional story of the rural southeast Minnesota community of Glenview in 2004-05. Buschette provides rich detail about the seasonal goings-on of rural life and work, in town and on the farm. As she creates events and happenings — from the county fair to Farmfest, from planting to harvest, from town newspaper editorials to church socials — rural Minnesota comes through.
The theme of her story centers around the Jensen family, particularly Robert — also known as “Jens” — a veteran of war who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jens and some other residents form a co-op and decide to convert Jens’ family farm into a winery and to raise grapes.
Not everyone in Glenview is happy with this decision and conflict flares, causing division among families and in the community — prompting bullying on the school playground and gossip that discourages business for pro-winery businesses.
In addition to this, Jens continues to wrestle with guilt surrounding a family tragedy that occurred when he was 14.
Along with the Jensen family, through Buschette’s ability to empathize and her ear for dialogue, we come to know the Stenseths, the Berntsens, the Petersons, the Swedlunds, the Akers and other town and farm families.
As she explains in her book biography, too often, clashing sides tear people apart. Rather than communicating and listening, some people spread rumors and opinions to fan the flames.
“The need to make use of the skills of conflict management became clear, and the idea of a story was born,” Buschette writes.
Completing her first novel took about four years, she says.
“Bits and pieces came to me,” she recalls, explaining how characters introduced themselves over time. “It was a kernel of an idea always in my mind.” Her husband, Butch, was always there, encouraging her to write and providing careful editing, too.
Writing and farming factor strongly in her background as well. She and Butch currently live on land west of Renville, Minn., that has been in her family for four generations. Her career began decades ago as a freelance writer for local newspapers. She also has worked as a paralegal, a congressional staffer and an agricultural lobbyist. She credits her master’s degree in organizational leadership with helping provide insight into conflict management and resolution.
Buschette has a start on her second novel that follows Glenview residents a decade later. She continues to market her first book, too, taking pleasure in sharing the optimism that individuals and communities can heal after heartache and disagreement.
For more information on “Locked Up in Frost,” visit lockedupinfrost.com. The book, released in late 2017 and published by Lakeside Press in Willmar, Minn., sells for $16.95.