HAMMER HEAD by Nina MacLaughlin


The Making of a Carpenter
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A former journalist tells the story of how a longing to “engage with the tangible, to do work that resulted in something I could touch” led to an unexpectedly fulfilling career as a carpenter.

As she neared 30, former Boston Phoenix editor MacLaughlin came to the painful realization that the job she once thought was "the coolest job in the world" no longer satisfied her. The woman who had lucked into a job straight out of college now stirred with a powerful desire for "the wholesale altering of life as [she’d] been living it.” So she quit her newspaper job and answered a Craigslist advertisement for a carpenter’s assistant. The carpenter doing the search, also a woman, took a chance and hired MacLaughlin, despite her total lack of experience. Soon, the former journalist who had spent her entire working life sitting in front of a computer screen was actively using her body and hands to transform residential living spaces. Learning how to use tools like tape measures, hammers, saws and drills was as challenging as coming to terms with the desexualizing nature of a profession overwhelmingly dominated by men. For the first time in her life, MacLaughlin realized just how “attached to [her] femininity” she really was. Through the screw-ups, successes and fallow periods that left her questioning her decision to leave a steady job, the author gained new confidence, both as a woman and a carpenter. She also discovered unexpected pleasure in dissolving “into something greater than” herself. MacLaughlin's work let her connect to the physical world in ways that writing—which only touched the surface of things through the “ghosty and mutable” medium of words—could not. More than that, it allowed her to “feel more honest, more useful, and more used.”

A surprisingly thoughtful book about taking chances and finding joy in change.

Pub Date: March 16th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0393239133
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2014


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