Thursday, April 12, 2012

This Life is in Your Hands by Melissa Coleman

This Life is in Your Hands 
by Melissa Coleman
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial (April 10, 2012)
Review Copy

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.


Its summertime, a loving family who sees opportunity in life dares to live out a dream and become organic farmers, living off the food they grow and taking things with a grain of salt in the simple life. Freedom to grow and eat the food they want and make a successful living at it attracts much attention in the early 70's and with the farms fame the happy couple and their daughters laugh, play and eat strawberry's on a beautiful land full of promise. Sounds pretty perfect and that's exactly what the eager couple was longing for, however what they got out of the simple life was in fact....a very hard life riddled with tragedy, sickness and financial ruin.

The farm was not a success, while it did attract much attention from the media, it didn't deliver the profits or stability the family wanted. Long dauntless hours were spent building, planting and maintaining the crops while in turn the work of storing, canning and preserving the food was a time consuming task as well. The couple had no help and without the proper use of farming equipment things went sour pretty fast. What probably seems odd for most and certainly for a reader today, is the fact that the family not only dedicated to live off the food they grew but built everything by hand, their home, the farm itself and decided to forgo electricity, indoor plumbing or any modern conveniences. No toilets, no running water, no hot showers, no lights. Going "green" to them meant everything, they raised the kids without immunizations, vitamins, prenatal/ OBGYN care and the like....also any form of technology was thrown out the window.

All this simple living wound up costing the family greatly in the end and what once was an inspiring dream became a depressing nightmare. Its only logical that the farm came with a due date of expiration and perhaps had this story (this family) fast forwarded to 2012 with all green technology and organic options, would have been a successful endeavor in the end. With the farms limitations and the lack of man power, on top of health issues and devastation, everything came to a head much sooner than anyone would have imagined.

Can you say heartbreak? This book while having a few inspirational and uplifting parts was truly just a very sad read. From the family tragedy to the slow demise of the family farm, we watch the hopes and dreams wash away in the waters of the pond. Even the closing with its bittersweet joy offered such sadness, I was left with a lingering thought of good writing but feeling emotionally drained. With the tone, sadness and overall depressed feeling it left with me, I wouldn't recommend this to people who easily become depressed. For sure though, a recommended read to those who particularly enjoy melancholy family saga's.


3/5- Memoir
Thanks to Harper and TLC Tours for Review Copy


  1. I do not like memories, so this isn't for me on that one point alone. However, I do get sad easy so I could never read this. I really steer clear of books that I think are going to depress me. To be honest, this book sounds kind of horrible. Then again, I suppose that's the non-memoir non-sad book girl in me. LOL! Still, I did love your review.

  2. I'm depressed now. :(

    That poor family. It's such an admirable thing that they give it a try but since the outcome was so damaging and draining for them, it's hard to even get motivated to want to read their tale.

  3. Sounds sad. I'm with Missie, I'm a bit depressed for them.

  4. Thanks for the review though :) I love seeing reviews for books that I haven't heard of before.

  5. I'm sorry this one didn't turn out to be a good fit for you, but thanks for being on the tour.

  6. I'm sorry this one didn't turn out to be a good fit for you, but thanks for being on the tour.


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