This Life Is in Your Hands

One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone

By Melissa Coleman
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061958328, 336pp.)

Publication Date: April 1, 2011

List Price: $25.99*
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Selected by Indie Booksellers for the May 2011 Indie Next List
“This is an honest and superbly written account of an idyllic reality gone awry. Coleman's hippie parents became disciples of Helen and Scott Nearing, a 'back to the earth' couple carving out a self-sufficient life in remote coastal Maine, where they dig into the sandy earth to create an organic lifestyle in the 1970s while raising a family. Macrobiotic diets, naked farmhands harvesting in summer fecundity, and the accidental drowning of a younger sister threaten the idyllic, simple life that Eliot and Sue Coleman are striving for. Coleman digs up her complicated past in elegant and enthralling prose.”
-- Annie Philbrick, Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT


Description

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.




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.




NPR
Sunday, Jul 31, 2011

After I-95 peters out, US 1 is the only way to get to the jagged Maine coastline. Quaint local stores and the occasional tourist trap line those sections of the road. For the last installment of our series on vacation reading around the country, guest host Linda Wertheimer talks with Susan Porter, owner of Maine Coast Books about what her customers are reading this summer. More at NPR.org

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