Monday, July 9, 2012

This Life is in Your Hands by Melissa Coleman

In 1968 Melissa Coleman's parents purchased property in Maine with the dream to live off the land.  They build their home, they planted and cultivated crops, and raised their children in a simple, value-driven environment.  They were organic and back to the land before it was popular.  Their story is fascinating.  Melissa does a great job of helping the reader catch the vision of what her parents believed in and worked hard to create.

This is a memoir, but it ends when Melissa is 9 or 10, so the first half or so isn't really from her memories.  I mean, obviously there are memories sprinkled in, but she has heavily researched what was going on with her family during that time.  There are excerpts from her mom's diary, quotes from visitors and apprentices, and facts from books and news articles.  She pulls them together very well, but it was a little much for me.  It seemed a little too documentary, for example, "Cold pinched the inside of Papa's nose as the first rays of sun bloomed behind the darkened points of fir and spruce surrounding the snow-covered clearing."  This is when she is one, so I guess she's trying to paint a picture, but for me it was distracting and felt too forced.

Aside from the sometimes dreamy over descriptions, I enjoyed this story.  You want to cheer for Eliot and Sue who are working so hard to live the principles they believe in.  Melissa has fond memories and I believe includes every moment that she clearly remembers from her childhood.  There's a great memory of being at the public library.  Growing up on a remote homestead, you can imagine that she is lonely.  "The books surrounded us like wrapped presents.  It was only by opening them that you could find out if they held anything special...In a good story, the characters were telling a secret that you knew was true because you remembered it from somewhere deep inside."  I love that, and I think it shows what a good writer Melissa Coleman is.

From the beginning of the book you know there is going to be a tragic ending.  It's mentioned on the cover, and even hinted at through out the story.  This kind of bothered me because there is a sense of foreboding and I kept it going to happen now...

Ultimately this is a well-told story about a family.  Starting with the parents and their passion and dreams.  I think because their story is unique, it's really interesting to read.  I recommend this book, but I didn't LOVE it.


Sam I Am...... said...

Sounds like a book I would definitely like to read. I love "back to the land" and self-sufficiency genre.
I'm reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed right now and loving it! It's an Oprah book so I'm really surprised as I don't usually like her picks. I'm sure I'm the only one in the world! LOL!
In Wild, Cheryl hikes the Pacific Coast Trail from CA to WA trying to clear her head and get her life back on track. She's a great writer as I hate to put it down yet I don't want it to end either. Are you on If so what's your id so I can follow you and vice-versa. I will be reading Coleman's book! Thanks!

Kammy T said...

I am on Goodreads. I'm not positive, but I think my ID is Kammy T.
I'll have to check out Wild! Thanks.