Susan Hand Shetterly

Surry, Maine

October 23, 2003


            “Meanwhile, Next Door to the Good Life” is going to become one of those essential books to read in order to understand the back-to-the-land-movement in Maine.

Jean Hay Bright's life in the woods may have been somewhat different from the lives of others trying to make their way out of what they felt was a society mired in corruption - trying to make their way toward a new and better choice - but there are themes common to all, and the first is the Vietnam War. No one should underestimate it.

Another is the amount of hard labor we, as young homesteaders, were willing and able to do. To read Hay Bright's account is to bring back the joy of learning how to do for oneself: how to grow food, cook food, survive winters, raise chickens, raise children. 

Another is the desire to recreate something closer to the frontier family than the suburban family: a small, intense unit back-lit by a kerosene lamp.    

The War was an evil that came from outside and - if we were one of the lucky - just left us whip-lashed. What made those first, fresh-faced homesteading dreams die eventually came from  what we carried inside us into the woods. The utopian life shattered under the weight of  our own imperfections.     

This is, in a sense, a story as old as time: a walk from innocence into experience. Who we believed in and some of what we believed in failed us. But the journey is important, and what Hay Bright knows we have left - after all this panning for gold - are the few bright nuggets of the real thing.       

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 Review, Nov. 25, 2003

Ellsworth American, Nov. 20, 2003

Bangor Daily News, Nov. 17, 2003


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