A must read if you "went back to the land", November 25, 2003
Reviewer: email@example.com (Barry Curtis)
Like many thousands of others, I was inspired by the books of Helen and Scott Nearing and left the corporate world in the mid '70's for the "simplicity" of "The good life" they espoused. The adventure, was much more difficult and complex than indicated by the Nearings. It was "good", but it definitely wasn't easy or "simple". I had never worked harder in my life! Eventually, I gave up trying to aspire to the Nearing's supposed example and while feeling guilt, made compromises.
As the years progressed, I had a nagging suspicion that the aged Nearings hadn't done it all by themselves as they had claimed and that there was more to their story than was revealed. How could these two people, supposedly with little need for money, be "jet setting" world travelers. Their story, and the many articles written about them made less and less sense.
Recently, I discovered the book "Meanwhile, Next Door to the Good Life", by Jean Hay Bright, who actually lived between the famed Helen and Scott Nearing, of "Living The Good Life" fame and the Eliot Coleman's, another well known "back to the lander" and organic farming "guru".
With humor, honesty, and photos, Jean Hay Bright takes us through the building of their humble home from "scratch", while birthing, changing diapers, cooking on a wood stove, overhauling their VW Bus, raising organic produce, canning, heating with wood, raising goats and chickens, and even sawing ice blocks from a nearby lake to use in a home built "ice box". From my viewpoint, she and her, then, husband were closer to living as the Nearings taught, than the Nearings, who used electricity, with a freezer and refrigerator out of view in the basement.
Her book is a very personal account of her back to the land adventure. It's a very honest book, revealing their failures as well as their successes. I both laughed and cried. In many ways, it was more educational than the books of their famed "advisors".
With the curiosity of the investigative reporter she was and is, the author eventually explored the background of the Nearings and sets the record straight, telling us where the Nearing's money came from to "live their good life" simply and with little money, as they professed, and most of their "followers" believed. The many myths about the now deceased Nearings still abound in recent magazines. I was relieved to finally hear the truth.
Jean Bright Hay's comments about the Nearings seem to be well balanced. She admired much about them and shares that with us also.
Even if one has not heard of the Nearings, or gone back to the land, it's a wonderful book that touches the soul. It's definitely a book I will keep on my bookshelf and reread, rather than donate it to the local library.
Other Book Reviews for "Meanwhile, Next Door to the Good Life"!
WomenWriters.Net, June 2004
Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, March-May 2004
Maine Sunday Telegram (Portland Press Herald), January 18, 2004
Rutland Herald and Times-Argus in Vermont, December 13, 2003
Penobscot Bay Press, Dec. 4, 2003
Ellsworth American, Nov. 20, 2003
Bangor Daily News, Nov. 17, 2003
Author Susan Hand Shetterly, Oct. 23, 2003
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