Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Review: This Life Is in Your Hands

'This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family's Heartbreak'
Author: Melissa Coleman

Format: ARC
Published: Harper; Apr. 2012
Pages: 352
Genre: Memoir
Grade: A
Source: Publisher

Synopsis: A true story, both tragic and redemptive, This Life Is in Your Hands tells of the quest to make a good life, the role of fate, and the power of forgiveness.
In the fall of 1968, Melissa Coleman's parents pack their VW truck and set out to forge a new existence on a rugged coastal homestead. Inspired by Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of the homesteading bible Living the Good Life, Eliot and Sue build their own home by hand, live off the crops they grow, and establish a happy family with Melissa and her two sisters. They also attract national media and become icons of the back-to-the-land farming movement, but the pursuit of a purer, simpler life comes at a price. In the wake of a tragic accident, idealism gives way to human frailty, and by the fall of 1978, Greenwood Farm is abandoned. The search to understand what happened is at the heart of this luminous, heartbreaking, and ultimately redemptive memoir.

My Take: I'll start off right now and say I am not a hippy. Many people take one look at me and think I am kind of prissy. However, being raised where I was (Pacific Northwest) and living where I do now (San Francisco) I can't help but have a respect for nature. So while you will never find me moving to the backwoods to take up homesteading like those in this book, I do have a great respect for the planet.  For example, we compost and recycle far more then we send to the landfill, I take public transportation far more than I drive, and pretty much everything we eat is organic and bought locally. So naturally, I found Melissa Coleman's This Life Is in Your Hands fascinating because, while I understood everything they were talking about, it was so far removed from my own life that I felt like a voyeur.

When the memoir opens we have Coleman telling us about how her parents came to want this lifestyle. The time was the late 1960s and her mother was a young, somewhat impressionable woman, and her father was a teacher needing a greater purpose. They read a popular homesteading book of the time, Living the Good Life, and decided to give it a try. Moving to the back woods of Maine, both of their families were a little shocked but Eliot and Sue were so passionate about it they just knew it would work. Soon after, their daughter Melissa was born and two became a family.

What I really liked about the memoir was that every new chapter opened with a photo of the family or some sort of work on the farm so you could really visualize what was going on. I also liked that Coleman would tell us what was going on historically at the time. It was almost as through their little farm was the antithesis of the rest of the world, with the energy crisis, Roe vs. Wade, and many other movements going on, one little family planting fruits and vegetables and not having running water was enough to provide their own counter-culture without saying much of anything.

What I thought was a little odd, was the fact that my copy gave away the whole crux of the story on the back blurb. Something that didn't even happen until the last bit of the book and would forever change this family was just given away and was clearly what this story was building towards the whole time. It appears as though they've fixed that now so I am not going to give that away anymore but publishers or whoever writes these blurbs: STOP DOING THAT!

If you are at all interested in gardening, eating organic foods, or giving back to the earth, I think you will find this book totally fascinating and I wholeheartedly recommend it!

For other opinions on this book, please check out the full TLC Tour here!

Cover Lust: I love this cover with a picture of little Melissa on the homestead! I think it's just perfect.


  1. this book sounds right up my alley! (can I borrow it from you? :)

  2. I enjoyed this book, too! I like your comment about the family's life being so different from your own it was like being a voyeur. You also make a great point about the back of the book summary giving away the entire story. I didn't like that.
    Terrific review!

  3. I listened to the audio version of this book. I thought the story was heartbreaking but the narration was monotone and took away from the story for me.

  4. I can't say that I am interested in reading at all about those things, oh well I can't like them all

  5. I found this story to be fascinating if only for the fact that I couldn't imagine taking a dive like that.

  6. i love the sound of this book! i just spent the weekend at my friend's cabin in the middle of nowhere and absolutely loved it! i keep telling her that once i'm done with school i'm going to find some small town and move there to live. i just love the country and how pretty and scenic nature is. i'll definitely have to add this one to my wishlist.

  7. I love that the author let you know what was going on in the country to give you some context.

    Also, I love the first line of your review.

    Thanks for being on this tour!


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