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This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone [Format Kindle]

Melissa Coleman

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

“Intense readability.... haunting power.... as well as lush, vivid atmosphere that is alluring in its own right.... [A] story so nuanced that it would be a disservice to reveal what was in store. If you want to know what happened, read it for yourself.” (Janet Maslin, New York Times)

“A fascinating look at the roots of the organic movement as well as a cautionary tale about the limits of idealism and the importance of forgiveness.” (Washington Post)

“Rendered with sublimity…. [Coleman] fluently describes the power of the natural world, familial love and heartbreak, grace after loss.” (New York Times Book Review)

“Coleman’s moving recounting never loses hope of redemption.” (People, Lead Review "People Pick")

“The Colemans and the Nearings . . . worked hard to create an alternative economy that is still growing in rural America. This memoir is evidence of their great sacrifices. (Los Angeles Times)

“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.” (Wally Lamb, The Hour I First Believed)

“[This] is a rare breed of book-a memoir that justifies its own existence; that feels like it needs to exist…. Coleman shows that without the essential ingredient of heart, any family-no matter how perfect and revolutionary it seems-is in danger of experiencing real loss.” (

“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.” (Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher)

“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.” (Ann Hood, author of The Red Thread and The Knitting Circle)

“Her memoir is as wrenching as it is beautifully written.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“Melissa Coleman’s enthralling account of ‘70s back-to-the-land living is an important cultural and emotional document: this is a story about surviving and, eventually, thriving amidst the shadows of loss.” (Heidi Julavits, author of The Uses of Enchantment)

“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.” (Peter Behrens, author of The Law of Dreams)

“An absorbing read that intelligently arrays the romanticism of living off the land against the emotional challenges of moving off the grid.” (Grist Magazine)

“This uncompromising memoir is tender, nonjudgmental, and heartfelt.” (Tuscon Citizen)

“A beautifully rendered memoir about growing up in a unique environment fueled by experimental back-to-the-land living. . . . Coleman illuminates the beauty of growing up in a family culture that valued nature and freedom of expression, but also frankly exposes farming’s negative impact on her family. (Star Tribune)

Présentation de l'éditeur

“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.” —Tom Perrotta 

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.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 943 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 352 pages
  • Editeur : HarperCollins e-books; Édition : Reprint (12 avril 2011)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B004HD61J0
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°349.928 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.2 étoiles sur 5  134 commentaires
65 internautes sur 65 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 I was swept away 29 janvier 2011
Par Kathleen Derevan - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
I was drawn into this book right away, and could hardly put it down once I started reading. The story takes place in a time that seems at once very recent and very far away indeed. The author was born in the late 60's into a family committed to a life that most would consider intense deprivation, although many aspired to it--the life of the homesteader, who would be beholden to none but him/herself. Her parents had heard the siren song of Helen and Scott Nearing and joined them in Maine, purchasing a plot of land upon which they planned to raise their family by the work of their own hands.

And what a lot of work it was! I was a teenager when the Colemans were setting out to be organic farmers, and I read books by J. I. Rodale and the Nearings, fantasizing about the rural life. In my dreams it was so much more carefree! In fact, it was backbreaking and unceasing labor for the parents, and loneliness for the children, especially the eldest, Melissa, who longed for a friend. Soon enough, there was a baby sister to share the adventures of roaming about the farm in (literally) naked innocence, with the freedom to graze on the ripe fruits and explore the woods. Too much freedom, in fact, which eventually led to tragedy and heartbreak.

The family's story is interwoven with the events going on in the world outside, although for Papa, nothing much mattered on the radio broadcasts except the weather report, as he threw himself into making organic crops, enough to feed his family and grow the farm. Mama had to see to storing food for the long winter months while caring for first one and then two daughters, tending the goats and chickens, and helping with all the other farm chores. As it turned out, the "simple" life was not as simple as it seemed.

It's a heartbreaking and brave memoir. Melissa Coleman tells her story with sympathy for all involved, but doesn't shirk the hard details of just what "living the good life" cost her family.
80 internautes sur 86 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Paradise Lost: Searching for Paradise and Ending up in Purgatory 15 avril 2011
Par Les - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
As someone who grew up in a commune during the 1970s, the same time period described in this book, many of the themes in "This Life is In Your Hands" resonated for me. The sense of disillusionment that many young, college-educated liberals had with the war in Vietnam, political corruption, and the energy crisis (to name just a few of the societal ills of the time) led many to seek an alternative lifestyle. The back-to-the-land movement was a search for a simpler, purer life, or even a search for some version of paradise. Although, as someone in the book is quoted as saying, "the very nature of paradise is that it will be lost."

And my experience was exactly that. No such paradise existed, and many of those who were swept away by this back-to-the-land movement were lost souls. And people who are lost don't make very good, or very responsible, parents. The neglect that Melissa Coleman or "Lissie" and her siblings suffered was somewhat commonplace within hippie families. Basic tenets of childcare were rejected in the name of being healthy and free. In the case of the Coleman family, prenatal care was abandoned, childhood vaccinations (like tetanus shots) were overlooked, and a pond near the farmhouse lacked a fence. I was actually surprised that her parents sent young Lissie to school, but the sense one gets is that this was more about giving her mother a break from childcare, rather than about ensuring that Lissie received a good education.

My immediate emotional reaction to the book was recognition, and hard on the heels of this was sadness. Sadness that the idealism of Lissie's parents, and others like them, caused them to reject the negative parts of their society but fail to retain the positive parts. Sadness that this failure wreaked havoc on the lives of many of the children of my generation. We were often profoundly neglected or even abused so that our parents could "find themselves" in nature.

In terms of the book itself. I found the style of prose lyrical in many places, but also somewhat "spacey" or impressionistic. The descriptions of nature were well done and the reader has a sense of being there. However, the descriptions of events was somewhat odd. Often an event was partially described and then abandoned abruptly. At other times the perspective jumped around from present to past to future which was somewhat disorienting and frankly annoying. Another oddity was that the central tragedy (that comes at the very end of the book) is revealed on the dust jacket. I would have preferred not to have had the climax revealed, so this very much ruined the book for me. Given that I did know about the tragedy that occurred within the family, I was sensitized to the sense of foreboding and pending doom that hovers over the story. Eventually, I became frustrated by this and wanted to simply get to the tragedy itself to end the relentless build-up.

Finally, I think it is a tricky thing to write a memoir while one's relatives are still alive. I had the sense that this would have been a very different book had the author's parents not been living. In fact, I think it would have been a better book because there would have been less of a sense of constraint and self-conscious diplomacy.
55 internautes sur 59 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Haunting 7 février 2011
Par Rushmore - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
This should be required reading for anyone who only sees the romance of living off the land. As seen through Melissa (Liss) Coleman's eyes, it was hard work, and the experiment ultimately destroyed her family.

Eliot and Sue Coleman were idealistic young people when they purchased 60 acres adjacent to the farm of Helen and Scott Nearing. In fact, the lifestyle values ideals over people. Their three daughters were raised by a passing parade of apprentices while the parents worked very, very hard to realize their dream of living off the land.

Actually I feel that Eliot and Sue were guilty of an insidious form of child abuse. Their daughters did not choose to live that life. As the eldest, Liss was working the farm at a very young age. She was terribly lonely and hungry for friends her own age. The parents seemed to put minimal effort into raising their daughters. Eliot became a kind of prophet, obsessed with his mission of sustainable biological farming. He worked crazy hours. Liss posits that his diet led to a vitamin deficiency and a subsequent thyroid condition. In any event, he eventually rejected his family, not just once but several times. Sue was mentally fragile and incapable of disciplining her daughters. When they got rambunctious, Sue in her own words "checked out." She fasted periodically which weakened her further and kept her less available to her children. The highest price was paid by Heidi, the middle daughter. After a terrible tragedy, any hope the family had of restoring their delicate balance was gone for good.

Melissa Coleman tells her story as more of a reporter than a memoirist. Her voice is somewhat detached but she provides excruciating detail, so the curious reader has a very strong sense of how it felt to live that life. The whole story is told through something of a haze. Although there is evidence of the drugs and free love that permeated the 1970s, it just feels like something that happened in a totally different part of the world.

Ironically, although the Colemans and the apprentices make sarcastic references to Helen and Scott Nearing cheating on the dream, in the end it seems that they were a lot more realistic than the others. When the Maine winter came, they travelled to a warmer climate. They enjoyed some processed foods such as ice cream. They were childless, and Helen in particular stated that the environment was not good for families. In fact Eliot and Sue simply worked too hard on the homestead to have the time or energy for the demanding work of raising their children.

Melissa Coleman is a survivor. However, the life is ultimately more punishing than redeeming. This is a very serious book and a sad one.
18 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 This Life Is In Your Hands 5 mars 2011
Par M. Reynard - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
There is something hauntingly beautiful about this book. While its main theme seems to be one of sorrow and striving for happiness, it expresses a lot of life. It is actually a Memoir, written by Melissa Coleman, about her life growing up on a primitive homestead in a dream that was hatched by her mother and father during the back to the land movement.

Originally, her parents had met on a college campus, and while there, had kept a small place with a garden and a few animals. Wanting more, they traveled to visit the Nearings in Maine. They had been inspired by the Nearing's book The Good Life, which is about homesteading and returning back to the lands to create a life. Buying land on the cheap from their mentors, Melissa's father builds their little house himself and starts clearing the land to make an organic garden. Each year the are a little better at what they do and the dream starts changing; at least for her father. While apprentices start coming to learn and her father goes on grant funded trips to study organic gardening, Melissa's mother suffers through postpartum depression it would seem and "checks out" leaving she and her sister to run wild and free across the homestead. Gradually the life starts unraveling and a tragedy sets the destruction of the family even further into motion.

It probably hurt a lot to write this book. Coleman certainly chose not to paint a happy facade on any of her family and told everything as it was, no matter how dirty or unflattering. She makes no excuses (except perhaps blaming a vegetarian diet a little) for any of her family's hardships or actions. And I think that's what makes this book so great, it is very very real. Even some of her descriptions, while they are graphic (she and her sister had some questionable bathroom habits) just show what kind of life they were living. She does a great job of showing the freedom they experience, and also what they were lacking because of it.

I was originally drawn to this book because it was about homesteading, something I've always wanted to do (although not to the extent that the Coleman's did). There's something about growing your own food and being self sufficient that is really appealing to me. However, this book is not a guide about that and anyone looking for tips and tricks won't really find them in this book. Although there is one recipe shared in the text. This book is more about feelings and a family's experiences, and it is just fine that way.

Definitely a great memoir. I can see myself returning to this book to read it again, just because it is so wonderfully written. If there were any flaws, I certainly didn't notice them as I was caught up in the story.

This Life Is In Your Hands
Copyright 2011
321 pages

Review by M. Reynard 2011
18 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Seeking the good life cost them everything 25 mai 2011
Par J. C Clark - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
The Nearings insisted that children would not be helpful in the quest for the good life (and Scott returned letters unopened from his son who had strayed from the party line.) But Melissa Coleman's mother and father tried to raise a family and a good life, and got neither. From my perspective, as one who also read Nearing way back when, it shoulda been easy to see. As one who now realizes the value of a promise and the importance of having some higher, external and eternal principles, the disaster that ensued appears inevitable.

Papa was a man who had strong principles, unless he needed to bend them. No animals harmed, except male kids and marauding raccoons. Nothing from outside the farm, except, well, except plenty. A co-ordinated family working together, except when he was off touring Europe leaving his fragile wife and small children behind. Yes, Papa had strong principles all right, as long as he was the beneficiary. He was a workaholic who felt, as every workaholic does, that his job was so important that any sacrifices suffered were worth it. What a sad tale!

Unfortunately, the author doesn't seem to really understand this, and her analysis suffers. Her father, obsessed with fixing the world and bringing his vision to life, behaved as nearly every utopian thinker eventually does when bringing that utopia to life: he discarded those who impeded the work. Sometimes deliberately, sometimes accidentally. But go they must, and go they did.

So many bad 60s ideas walk across these pages. And it is easy to see why they sounded so good. What could be wrong with peace, love and freedom? Nothing, if the human heart were otherwise. But it wasn't, and isn't, and reality smashed into fantasy, and won.

A well written book, though the first person narrative of events that occurred when she was so young was jarring. I have very few crisp memories from those days, and I think I was relatively aware. But the moods, aura, and subtleties described are just impossible to credit to a five year old's observations. Not a killer, but a problem. But the tale told is so good, and its lessons so profound, that this is a minor, if frequent, irritation.

And Melissa. I wonder if you are still a vegetarian, and if you had your kids vaccinated? As one who would answer yes and no to those questions, it would have been nice to see how much of your upbringing you carried with you.
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