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Cabin: Two Brothers, a Dream, and Five Acres in Maine
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Cabin: Two Brothers, a Dream, and Five Acres in Maine

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  248 ratings  ·  56 reviews
Inspired by his From the Ground Up New York Times blog, a beautifully written memoir about building and brotherhood. Confronted with the disappointments and knockdowns that can come in middle age-job loss, the death of his mother, a health scare, a divorce-Lou Ureneck needed a project that would engage the better part of him and put him back in life's good graces. City-bo ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 15th 2011 by Viking
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I truly enjoyed reading this book. It started out slow but I grew to like it very much. There was a lot of technical information about building but it was interesting. The author had a lot of the same feelings I have about reasons to go to a cabin.
"I found the North Star and turned in place to take in the entire sky. It had been a night in which the stars actually sparkled; they glittered, it seemed, for my benefit. The snow was deep and creaked under my boots. The temperature was well below ze
Anna-maria Frastali
A story about building. Building a cabin in Maine- from scratch. That was something new for me. I try to recall the subject of the last books I’ve read. Scattered words occur to me: bonds, love, chase, revenge, friends, house, blood, senses. Now, doesn’t every story have to do with building and demolishing?

It’s a good metaphor and I like it. Lou Ureneck reaches the roots and the branches of this metaphor. He starts by his recent misfortunes, continuing by introducing us to his childhood, his rel

This book was not very satisfying. It was not from lack of skill, but lack of will….The author tries to frame it in some kind of middle aged funk, but really it is just life. The emotional component, his erratic childhood, his failings as an adult, are acknowledged and described up to a point, but there is something flimsy about it. The plot is simple enough, he decides to buy some land in Maine and build a cabin, with a lot of help from his brother and some others. The brother lives in Portland

This is a back-to-nature book in the spirit of Thoreau's Walden, crossed with a building book in the style of Tracy Kidder's House.

Basically, fast-forward Walden by a hundred and fifty years, throw in musings about the ups and downs of life, marriage, family, and divorce. Add lots of detail about cabin construction, and reflections on how the process contributes to bonding more closely with brothers and nephews and restoring "coherence" to a life.

It all adds up to a delicious book, full of wonde

If I thought I wanted a cabin BEFORE I read this book, I not only wanted a cabin but I wanted to BUILD A CABIN IN MAINE. I would have liked more pictures of the interior and of the cabin layout. I enjoyed the book and would read other books by the author.
Another addition to the genre of books of what it is to make home, to be family, to belong to a place. I was particularly interested because I live in the same area as the author's cabin. I had a strong sense of the author holding back as I read these essays, and I wanted more generosity in describing the place and making himself at home in it. What he gave was strong, but not enough. More on the people's stories that intertwined with his own, more of the land and its history, more of what moves ...more
Aug 25, 2014 Joe rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: craft, work
It’s part story and part encyclopedia. It's a compilation of everything related to the location and construction of a cabin in Maine, though it's by no means a how-to manual. Half of it is about the human relationships of the builders — which is my sweet spot. The other half, intertwined with the story, is about the ecology, history, and social structure of the area, sometimes in exhaustive detail. If the subject of a particular page doesn’t interest you, just skip ahead a few paragraphs or page ...more
Disclosure: I am prone to rant and rave violently against the tidal wave of navel gazing memoirs which has swept over the US publishing industry in recent years. And Louis Ureneck is a repeat offender no less! So I would normally be predisposed to savage Cabin's introspection in my review. However, I too am the owner of a rustic cabin (in the Adirondacks) and I closely followed "From the Ground Up" (the author's NY Times blog on the subject). Moreover I willingly bought this book knowing full we ...more
Lisa Kearns
I bought this book because I was interested in the story of a middle aged man building a cabin in the wilds of Maine. I was intrigued by the story of the author's brother helping him build it, and of how their relationship was renewed.

Lou Ureneck tells the story of his unsettled childhood - abandoned by his father and stepfather, raised with his brother by his hairdresser mother, moving multiple times and finding his only source of comfort and stability in the woods and swamps near where he live
K2 -----
I had to laugh at the comments that the book had too much "building" details, what did they think the book was about if not construction?

Ureneck is a talented writer and a bright curious mind.

With his life in a bit of upheaval he buys some acreage in Maine and sets to build a cabin in the woods with help from his brother, his nephews, and a few local hires. It's a great tale overall but I had to laugh toward the end to read that he had planted a lawn after going on and on about wanting to keep
This was an entertaining read about a couple of brothers who decided to build a cabin in the Maine woods. My only complaints are that the author had a tragic case of Journalism Voice, and explained the symbolism behind things immediately after describing the thing. But it was still a good read, I learned a little about Maine and cabin-building, and there were even some funny moments.
Overall I was not impressed. The beginning was fun but the second 2/3 of the book dragged. It especially broke down over the last 20 pages or so. Random little facts here and there and short explanations of things that had no relevance. It felt like he was rushing to finish the book and get it out the door.

I felt the self analysis didn't work for the book. Its pitched as a book about a man building a cabin. I understood why he would write about building the cabin, about the history of the land,
The title " cabin " and the cover picture made a intiseing read. The building of the cabin was interesting and they made it look easy , of course now you want a cabin in the woods.
It was so much more, Lou has lots of guilt and emotional issues he trying to work through them thank goodness building the cabin took up a lot of his time and energy.
Eileen Pucci
The author of this memoir about building a cabin in the Maine woods struck me as being a self-absorbed and self-important ass. He thinks he is a combination of Thoreau and Johnny Appleseed.

I'm not sure why I gave the book three stars, except I liked the idea of the cabin and I liked finding evidence of the author's pomposity in his own words.
I really like the pacing, tone, and topic of this book; it felt calming and meditative to me. I love the idea of a cabin in the New England woods, good folks to share it with, and love walking and taking in the views of nature around me. And I appreciated that the writer and his brother were dealing with Big Life Stuff. Who isn't really?

The stories that ureneck punctured the cabin building tale with we're sometimes intriguing and other times not. Like his pile of beams, I sort the ones that I n
Anne Slater
This is so much more interesting and less precious than Tracy Kidder's House.

I am always drawn into books where people tell you how and why they decided to do X. This does a good job of that, drawing upon the author;s family of origin, his relationship with his brother, and his interest in the natural world of New Jersey, New England, Maine in particular.

His drawing in the history of the area bored me a bit, although other readers might be much more interested in that aspect.

I just realized that
What a pleasure to read Ureneck's book. The author had a plan to build a cabin in the Maine woods, with the help of his brother, and sets about to do it with wood accumulated from an earlier stage of his life. As he builds, he ruminates on his life, nature and man's place in it.
I am neither builder nor woodsman and, still, the story held and moved me.
Ureneck is both journalist and philosopher, builder and seeker.

Comparisons to Thoreau are inevitable. The writer alludes to his influence. I think
This was a great little book. Ureneck is much more interested in telling the story of his relationships with his family, especially his brother, than he is in explaining the details of the construction of his cabin. That said, it doesn't really diminish the impact of the book, and it certainly didn't make it any less enjoyable to read for me. I liked his use of the cabin's construction to frame the many tangents about his childhood and his later life. It's well written and an excellent read, but ...more
Good...makes you want to inhabit a cabin in Maine, which I think means it achieved its goals. Sometimes spends a bit too long waxing rhapsodic about nature, but is at its best when sticking to cabin construction and what comes up along the way.
I thought this book was wonderful, from start to finish. It will stay in my library right next to Walden. Mr Ureneck was organized, thoughtful, and topped it off with beautiful writing!
Glenda Alexander
I was amazed at the brilliance of the self therapy of this author, what a constructive way to get through a life changing event such as his divorce.

I think we can all use this type of therapy for our losses. Lou was able to renew his relationship with his family and build a beautiful place for his family and friends to share with him.

I think this would be a wonderful gift for any man facing the challenge of loss be it divorce or death of a companion.

In reading this book I felt I really knew thi
A decent book which could have been much better. Lou is at his best when describing the cabin, its construction, and the Maine woods surrounding it. Unfortunately, the book bogs down in some serious navel-gazing and amateur psychology. This may appeal to those who enjoy Doctor Phil type cathartic admissions, but it detracts from the Thoreau cabin experience. He also slips when describing the settlement of Maine, portraying this complex and nuanced story as the evil Europeans usurping the garden ...more
An earnest and successful examination of the urban/suburban worker longing for a taste of his past on the disappearing fringe of the rural or natural. Sometimes flowery, sometimes confessional in the mood of Richard Russo. Sometimes nakedly practical but by no means a manual. Half a star off for using the expression "scudding clouds." Set in Maine and environs.
Sean Prentiss
As a cabin owner and a person who built that cabin from scratch, I was excited to read this book. It had received wonderful reviews. And now I see why. This is a thoughtful book. It's definitely not fast paced. But rather it's a slow, thoughtful meditation on cabin building, nature, and family. A great read for any lover of cabins or nature. A great example of memoir.
I saw Lou Ureneck talk about this book at the Maine Festival of the Book in Portland, so I added it to my to-read list.

Now that I've read the book, I'd comment that it is a quiet, enjoyable reflection on the relationship of two brothers and on the writer's quest to build a small cabin in the western Maine woods. He describes their tough childhood and the camaraderie they find in working together as middle-aged adults, to build a cabin they can use as a retreat for themselves and their families.
This book bore special meaning for me because it took place in a small town(pop. 255)in Maine where I used to live, around the time I lived there. I recognized the diner where he got his newspapers and the bar where he drank beer; I recognized the streets and the rolling hills and many of the characters. The story was engaging, but the writing often took me out of it. For example, he often assumes he understands the motivations of other characters, and tells us rather than shows us, and many of ...more
Lynn Plourde
I did enjoy this book and the author's story of building a cabin in the Maine woods as his mid-life crisis project. But the story kept getting side-tracked with reflections on his growing-up years, his failed marriage, his relationship with his mother and brother. These zigzags in the story were far from seamless--seemed like the cabin building kept getting lost in the story. I expected more "cabin" and didn't get it. If the author's real intent was to write a memoir, then he should have done so ...more
Lou Ureneck is a talented writer and this book is the proof. He tells the main story and craftfully weaves into it many other stories. He describes his childhood and his brother's situation and goes into the backgrounds of people he works with on the cabin project. I even learned about the old days of New England when the Indians and settlers were each trying to get live their own way of life. The author did lots of research.
By the way, this book is probably aimed at the middle age male demograp
Not just a story of building, it is also about the author's relationship to his family.
Like a walk in the woods, this book meanders. The detours are thoughtful and with purpose and demonstrate the author's awareness and respect for his surroundings. The author finds solace and healing in the construction of his dream cabin. As he erects the cabin, so does he re-build his relationships with his family and makes peace with his past. Wtih this book, the journey is as important as the destination.
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Lou Ureneck is a teacher and writer. He lives in Boston. His first book, "Backcast," won the National Outdoor Book Award for literary merit. He has worked as a reporter and editor at the Providence Journal, the Portland (Maine) Press Herald and the Philadelphia Inquirer. He also has been a merchant seaman and carpenter. Ureneck also was a Nieman fellow and editor-in-residence at Harvard University ...more
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