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This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone (2011)

by Melissa Coleman

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2671484,140 (3.93)7
With urban farming and backyard chicken flocks becoming increasingly popular, Coleman has written this timely and honest portrait of her own childhood experience in Maine with her two homesteading parents during the turbulent 1970s. A luminous, evocative memoir that explores the hope and struggle behind one family's search for a self-sufficient life.… (more)
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    The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir by Ruth Wariner (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Memoirs of growing up in families led by parents who put principles above their children.

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
I received this book through Goodreads FirstReads.

The life the Coleman family lived is incredibly intriguing, and it was so interesting to read about the original "back-to-the-land" movement in the 1970s. After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, I fell in love with the idea of raising and growing all your own food, and there's a part of me that loves the idea of homesteading as well--although after reading this book, I know for certain that I would never actually do it. The story of their farm life, with their neighbors and apprentices all working to bring together each aspect of it, is very unique.

The personal story of the family is tragic and much less fun to read. It's hard to imagine the kind of toll such a life would take on people's emotions, but even so, I couldn't help myself wanting to assign blame for the way their life fell apart. The contentment of their way of life doesn't mesh well with the tragedy in their home.

The story itself is fascinating, but I don't care much for the way Coleman writes. Her style is too flowery and wordy and completely overdone for my taste. All too frequently, sometimes twice in one page, I read sentences like these:

"The forest closed around us with the smells of cedar and spruce and the white of bunchberry dogwood flowers popping from the muted greens and browns. We hopscotched over the exposed roots and past the old log covered in wiry-green moss and an army of red-hatted British soldiers."

"I can see our two little figures hanging over the face of the curved green earth, the universe sighing above us, vast and unknown. The soil, forests, and waters held in them the promise of survival if we could learn their secrets, but pumping our legs together on the swing, Heidi and I hoped only to reach the sky."

They don't sound that bad on their own, but there are so many like these that I had to stop after two examples because I just couldn't decide which ones to share. It's all too much, tries too hard to be epic and ethereal and philosophical. As it is, it's an interesting story and definitely worth a read; but if it had been written by someone else, I think, I may have liked the book quite a bit more.
  mirikayla | Feb 8, 2016 |
I have to give this five stars because it was really very, very good. It was just sad. So sad. And not even just because it contains a heartbreakingly tragic event. When a story is written from the point of view of a child, and the main theme of the story is about pursuing a lifestyle at the expense of your family's well-being, it inevitably is just going to be sad. ( )
  CherieDooryard | Jan 20, 2015 |
Overall, an interesting book about the first wave of organic farmers; especially interesting because this family was one of the lead families of the wave. Behind every story is a good bit of "dirt" and this exposed that dirt with grace and gave it the appropriate amount of attention (i.e. it didn't make too big of a deal of it, just stated it and went on). It also exposed just how hard living organically can be, and how forceful a personality is needed to continue with that lifestyle. Unfortunately, it sounds like it tore up many families. The story lagged in places but I recommend it for anyone who lived thru the first organic years (~1970s), or anyone wanting to learn what it was like. ( )
  marshapetry | Sep 3, 2014 |
You won't regret spending the time to read this book. Set during the early 1970's, in the forests of Maine, the author shares her childhood experiences as the daughter of an idealistic ,well-intentioned "back to the land" couple where heaven was just a garden away. The author's story reveals the fantasy, that we will all live better lives if we eat organic food, live without electrictiy or plumbing, and never partake of what the world has to offer. This generation forgot that people 120 years ago, who lived such as this, did so because they had few options and so often died early from disease and lack of medical care. I remember the song verse from "Woodstock", .... and we've got to get ourselves, back to the garden..... meaning a natural lifestyle. Some people took this a little too literally....... Anyway, the writing is vivid, wonderful and so clear in its imagery..."Mama doing her headstands, hair falling down on the sides of her head like broken wings".. ...Wow, what insight she has in her imagery . However, I wish the author whould have just paid a narrator to read her book. Her voice is gravelly, like she needs to clear the phelm out. Her tone was droning but I suffered through it because the writing itself is beautiful. Better read it and not listen to it. ( )
  gaillamontagne | Jun 10, 2014 |
As someone who moved to the Maine Woods in my 20's, this book brought it all back: the mystique, the dreams, the drudgery, the spirit, and the naivete. Coleman's story has the added tragedy of her sister's drowning and the stresses on her parents' marriage, but the story is all too familiar and one I am glad to be reminded of. ( )
  sleahey | Nov 13, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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--but beauty is more now than dying's when
--e.e. cummings
For my sister Heidi
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For the first nine years of my life, Greenwood Farm was my little house in the big woods, located as long ago and far away up the coast of Maine as it was from mainstream America.
Prologue: We must have asked our neighbor Helen to read our hands that day.
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With urban farming and backyard chicken flocks becoming increasingly popular, Coleman has written this timely and honest portrait of her own childhood experience in Maine with her two homesteading parents during the turbulent 1970s. A luminous, evocative memoir that explores the hope and struggle behind one family's search for a self-sufficient life.

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Average: (3.93)
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