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This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undoneby Melissa Coleman
Synopses & Reviews
Set on a rugged coastal homestead during the 1970s, This Life Is in Your Hands introduces a superb young writer driven by the need to uncover the truth of a childhood tragedy and connect anew with the beauty and vitality of the back-to-the-land ideal that shaped her early years.
In the fall of 1968, Melissa Coleman's parents, Eliot and Sue — a handsome, idealistic young couple from well-to-do families — pack a few essentials into their VW truck and abandon the complications of modern reality to carve a farm from the woods. They move to a remote peninsula on the coast of Maine and become disciples of Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of the homesteading bible Living the Good Life. On sixty acres of sandy, intractable land, Eliot and Sue begin to forge a new existence, subsisting on the crops they grow and building a home with their own hands.
While they establish a happy family and achieve their visionary goals, the pursuit of a purer, simpler life comes at a price. Winters are long and lean, summers frenetic with the work of the harvest, and the distraction of the many young farm apprentices threatens the Colemans' marriage. Then, one summer day when Melissa is seven, her three-year-old sister, Heidi, wanders off and drowns in the pond where she liked to play. In the wake of the accident, ideals give way to human frailty, divorce, and a mother's breakdown — and ultimately young Melissa is abandoned to the care of neighbors. What really happened, and who, if anyone, is to blame?
This Life Is in Your Hands is the search to understand a complicated past; a true story, both tragic and redemptive, it tells of the quest to make a good life, the role of fate, and the power of forgiveness.
“Lyrical and down-to-earth, wry and heartbreaking, This Life Is In Your Hands is a fascinating and powerful memoir. Melissa Coleman doesn’t just tell the story of her family’s brave experiment and private tragedy; she brings to life an important and underappreciated chapter of our recent history.” Ann Hood, author of The Red Thread and The Knitting Circle
“With beautiful lyrical prose, Coleman shows us what life in a 1970s back-to-nature farm was like, and the dear price her family paid pursuing their dream." Peter Behrens, author of The Law of Dreams
“A dream, a family, a heartbreaking tragedy — and a book I could not put down. Melissa Coleman’s memoir of a back-to-the-land childhood is fresh, organic, and gorgeously written.” Heidi Julavits, author of The Uses of Enchantment
“Combine the sincerity of Walden with the poignancy of The Glass Castle, add dashes of the lush prose found in The Botany of Desire, and you get This Life Is in Your Hands…. I was engaged and deeply moved by this evocative tale of Paradise found then lost.” Janet Maslin,
“Coleman’s moving recounting never loses hope of redemption.” Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher
In a work of power and beauty reminiscent of Tobias Wolff, Jeannette Walls, and Dave Eggers, Melissa Coleman delivers a luminous, evocative childhood memoir exploring the hope and struggle behind her family's search for a sustainable lifestyle. With echoes of The Liars’ Club and Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Coleman’s searing chronicle tells the true story of her upbringing on communes and sustainable farms along the rugged Maine coastline in the 1970’s, embedded within a moving, personal quest for truth that her experiences produced.
About the Author
As a freelance writer, Melissa Coleman has covered lifestyle, health, and travel. She lives in Freeport, Maine, with her husband and twin daughters.
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