Thursday, April 26, 2012

Book Review: This Life Is In Your Hands

This Life is in Your Hands is Melissa Coleman's account of her family's homesteading past. Before she was born, Melissa's parents, jaded by modern society, retreated to the wilderness of Maine, bought 60 acres, and determined to live a simple, totally self-reliant life. This eventually led to a large organic farm, a home, three daughters, and many "interns" eager to live off the land and learn from the Colemans.

By piecing together her own memories, media reports of her family's "unique" lifestyle, journal entries, and interviews with all those involved, Melissa Coleman presents the family's voyage from start to finish -- yes, there was an end. The subtitle of this book is "One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family's Heartbreak." You go into the story knowing what specific tragic event eventually pulls the family apart and ends the experiment (which is something I hate -- it ruins it for me, knowing what is coming in the final pages; alas, this is a device I see more and more these days, so I suppose it is here to stay). 

The journey itself, though, is interesting. Especially for someone like myself, who has no real knowledge of what it would take to make EVERYTHING you need to survive, starting with building your home with your bare hands from trees on your property, there was plenty of things along the way that distracted me from the fact that I knew tragedy was going to strike and the family was going to break up. And, of course, this book chronicles a story that is certainly unique to a massive portion of the population, so that in itself is something that makes it all the more interesting and novel.

Now for the part I hate doing in book reviews -- telling you about things that got under my craw a bit. Sorry, I need to be honest. At times, the book comes off rather preachy. Coleman goes into great detail explaining her father's organic gardening beliefs and the family's stance on everything from vegetarianism to consumerism -- and most of the time, she is putting rather annoying and arrogant statements in the mouths of her characters. You know, the "We do it THIS way, and why would you EVER do it another way?" annoying comments that make you un-friend people on facebook and complain to your spouse after a dinner party. At first, honestly, I wasn't sure I could make it through the entire book. But about 50 pages in, I suddenly was hooked and needed to hear this story. Yeah, the characters from time to time made me want to slap them, but that happens in novels, so why not in a memoir, right?

In the end, despite the hang-ups I had about this book, I read it surprisingly quickly and find myself thinking about the family long after having closed the book for good. I don't know about you, but as a reader, those are two good signs for me. If you are even mildly interested in the homesteader movement or the birth of organic farming in the US, you need to read this book.

If you'd like to see what other reviewers had to say about this book, the complete TLC Tour guide can be found HERE. If you'd like to learn more about Melissa Coleman, you can visit her website and facebook page.

I was provided a copy of This Life is in Your Hands, but was not compensated for this review. All the opinions expressed are my own.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad that you enjoyed parts of this book even if not everything worked for you. Thanks for being on the tour.


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