NPR contributor Shetterly tells the story of young married life as she and her husband set out from Maine to Los Angeles, but were ultimately forced to return home, stymied by the economic recession, illness and an unexpected pregnancy.
This cozy, homespun memoir blends a call to community (“until all Americans realize this—how much we need each other—[some] of us will always fall through the cracks”) with a daily glimpse into one family’s experience of economic hardship in a faltering economy. In the spring of 2008, the couple headed west, conscious of the symbolic promise of going westward in the American mythos. Following an indirect route from Maine to California via the deep South, with two pets in tow, Shetterly describes nights in cheap motels, the adventure of the road, her unexpected delight in the state of Texas—despite her antipathy to George W. Bush—and the underhanded tactics of a corrupt moving company. There is a dangerously run-down apartment on arrival, the unexpected news of a pregnancy, a crazy neighbor upstairs, indignation at the privileges of the L.A. super-rich, the death of a beloved cat and, of course, one problem after another seeking and not finding full employment. Through it all, the author found inspiration in the pioneer stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the lyrics of folk songwriter Greg Brown. Bruised and penniless, the couple finally decided to return home to live with Shetterly’s mother in rural Maine and made the cross-country drive in reverse, finding continuing economic struggles and the rewarding challenges of family in hard times.
A sincere but edgeless Prairie Home Companion–style memoir of a down-on-their-luck young couple, likely to resonate with readers interested in community values and the appeal of the simple life.