Book Review: This Life is In Your Hands

March 4, 2012

This Life is In Your Hands
by Melissa Coleman
Genre: Memoir
You might like this book if you are a fan of the writings of Eliot Coleman, organic gardening expert, or you like memoirs such as Glass Castles that tell real stories of families that go through extreme circumstances.

My Review:
This book just grabbed me by the throat from the first few words and images. The writing is beautiful and almost mystical in tone.  I found it by chance when I was searching my library catalog for the Eliot Coleman books I check out every year in the early spring. He is a gardening expert whose teachings about feeding the soil rather than using pesticides resonate with me. I never knew much about him personally, but this book, by his oldest daughter, has changed all that. She writes with honesty, clarity and care about her growing-up years on a homestead in rural Maine during the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970's.  She tells a story of ideals coming face to face with reality and of the dreams of a visionary contrasting with the daily needs of raising a family. Along the way there is tragic loss, heartbreak and glimpses into what it really means to find the truest meaning in life.

At times, life was idyllic, at times life was just dang hard, and at all times, the Coleman family worked incredibly hard to make their homestead a home. In the end, in spite of outward successes,  Greenwood Farm came just short of that state of being a real, permanent home, and therein lies the conflict at the heart of the story.

To me it is both a thrilling and inspirational account of what can be accomplished if you focus and put your best efforts into something and a cautionary tale of what happens when anything, no matter how worthwhile, starts to eclipse the importance of the relationships we have with other people. It simultaneously makes me want to plant more garden beds but also to hug my husband and children and be grateful for my perhaps less passionate but more balanced life.

In the end, there is love, appreciation and forgiveness. The torn strands of the author's family have been rewoven, perhaps not in the pattern either Eliot or Sue Coleman first imagined, but nonetheless,  beauty can be seen in the end result.

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