THE BIG TINY by Dee Williams


A Built-It-Myself Memoir
Email this review


His was 150 square feet and hers was 84, but Henry David Thoreau and newcomer Williams find significant common ground in their little abodes.

Though Thoreau didn’t spend a lot of time regaling us about living in his cabin by Walden, and Williams spends a great deal of time describing living in hers, they shared the same desire: to pare down their lives. “I imagined,” she writes, “I’d learn something about myself by stripping down to the basics—by living with two dinner plates, three spoons, two pairs of pants, a dress, and my wool skivvies…with humility and gratitude.” While Thoreau wandered off into the briars of transcendentalism, Williams hews to the quotidian. She was also disturbed, to say the least, by a mysterious, potentially mortal heart ailment and has a defibrillator built into her heart, which, when activated, feels “like being Tasered from the inside out.” The author amiably narrates her story of building a tiny, portable space, off the grid (except for a propane heater), complete with a composting toilet and enough room to turn around without having to kick the dog from the house. She chronicles how she found ancient planks of wood to use as siding, learned how to use her eyes and intuition when building, joined the “Flannel Shirt Club” and became an all-around do-it-yourself builder, minimizing unused materials. Williams also displays a light humor, though she occasionally lapses into what is not so much quirky as chirpy. However, the narrative is tempered by the somber thoughts of the deaths of two close friends. “For me,” she writes, “the idea of living small has always involved being curious—taking a look at how my day-to-day is connected to the larger world...[and] the delicate universe that sits between my ears.”

A lightweight curiosity that will find sympathy with readers frustrated with the conventional rat race.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-399-16617-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2014


NonfictionTHE THINGS THAT MATTER by Nate Berkus
by Nate Berkus
NonfictionA PLACE OF MY OWN by Michael Pollan
by Michael Pollan
NonfictionONE GOOD TURN by Witold Rybczynski
by Witold Rybczynski