An earnest memoirist remembers her family and their hardscrabble organic-farm life in Maine
During the enthusiasm of the 1960s, Coleman’s parents chose to live as self-sufficient a life as possible, becoming evangelists of healthy, all-natural living. The family’s farm was coaxed into fecundity with the efforts of a number of virile acolytes, who, when they were not tending the vegetable stand, enjoyed the natural unclothed life. Coleman’s mother had babies, baked bread, did chores and kept a journal while her father supervised, spread manure and pronounced wise and generally trite aphorisms. Figuring largely in the tale were their neighbors and spiritual guides, Helen and Scott Nearing, the redoubtable counterculture back-to-the-landers. Learning from the Nearings, Coleman’s father taught others the correct, macrobiotic lifestyle. The family’s tenuous subsistence amid the roots and rocks was nourishing and rewarding, until the shocking drowning death of the author’s 3-year-old sister, a heartbreaking event that led to the slow disintegration of the family. In this elegiac memory piece, the author describes her bucolic girlhood in languid, deliberately measured prose, and investigates the downward spiral that followed her sister’s death.
A verdant memory of a different American childhood and of an idyll that ended tragically.