October 08, 2011
This Life Is In Your Hands by Melissa Coleman
There is something hauntingly beautiful about this book. While its main theme seems to be one of sorrow and striving for happiness, it expresses a lot of life. It is actually a Memoir, written by Melissa Coleman, about her life growing up on a primitive homestead in a dream that was hatched by her mother and father during the back to the land movement.
Originally, her parents had met on a college campus, and while there, had kept a small place with a garden and a few animals. Wanting more, they traveled to visit the Nearings in Maine. They had been inspired by the Nearing's book The Good Life, which is about homesteading and returning back to the lands to create a life. Buying land on the cheap from their mentors, Melissa's father builds their little house himself and starts clearing the land to make an organic garden. Each year the are a little better at what they do and the dream starts changing; at least for her father. While apprentices start coming to learn and her father goes on grant funded trips to study organic gardening, Melissa's mother suffers through postpartum depression it would seem and "checks out" leaving she and her sister to run wild and free across the homestead. Gradually the life starts unraveling and a tragedy sets the destruction of the family even further into motion.
It probably hurt a lot to write this book. Coleman certainly chose not to paint a happy facade on any of her family and told everything as it was, no matter how dirty or unflattering. She makes no excuses (except perhaps blaming a vegetarian diet a little) for any of her family's hardships or actions. And I think that's what makes this book so great, it is very very real. Even some of her descriptions, while they are graphic (she and her sister had some questionable bathroom habits) just show what kind of life they were living. She does a great job of showing the freedom they experience, and also what they were lacking because of it.
I was originally drawn to this book because it was about homesteading, something I've always wanted to do (although not to the extent that the Coleman's did). There's something about growing your own food and being self sufficient that is really appealing to me. However, this book is not a guide about that and anyone looking for tips and tricks won't really find them in this book. Although there is one recipe shared in the text. This book is more about feelings and a family's experiences, and it is just fine that way.
Definitely a great memoir. I can see myself returning to this book to read it again, just because it is so wonderfully written. If there were any flaws, I certainly didn't notice them as I was caught up in the story.
This Life Is In Your Hands