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Books  >>  Biography

Melissa Coleman

This Life Is in Your Hands

Melissa Coleman This Life Is In Your Hands One Dream Sixty Acres And A Family's Heartbreak
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Main description:

A true story, both tragic and redemptive, This Life Is in Your Hands tells of the quest to make a good life, the role of fate, and the power of forgiveness.

In the fall of 1968, Melissa Coleman's parents pack their VW truck and set out to forge a new existence on a rugged coastal homestead. Inspired by Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of the homesteading bible Living the Good Life, Eliot and Sue build their own home by hand, live off the crops they grow, and establish a happy family with Melissa and her two sisters. They also attract national media and become icons of the back-to-the-land farming movement, but the pursuit of a purer, simpler life comes at a price. In the wake of a tragic accident, idealism gives way to human frailty, and by the fall of 1978, Greenwood Farm is abandoned. The search to understand what happened is at the heart of this luminous, heartbreaking, and ultimately redemptive memoir.

Review quote:

“[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.”

Review quote:

“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.

Review quote:

“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.”

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“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.”

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

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“Coleman’s moving recounting never loses hope of redemption.”

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“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.”

Review quote:

“Her memoir is as wrenching as it is beautifully written.”

Review quote:

“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.”

Review quote:

“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.”

Review quote:

“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.”

Review quote:

“Rendered with sublimity…. [Coleman] fluently describes the power of the natural world, familial love and heartbreak, grace after loss.”

Review quote:

“The Colemans and the Nearings . . . worked hard to cre

“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.


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