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Simple Gifts: Lessons in Living from a Shaker Village
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Simple Gifts: Lessons in Living from a Shaker Village

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  53 ratings  ·  11 reviews
In Simple Gifts, June Sprigg tells the story of one of America's last Shaker communities--Canterbury Shaker Village, in Canterbury, New Hampshire--during its twilight years, and of its seven remarkable "survivor" women, who were among the last representatives of our longest-lived and best-known communal utopian society. As a college student Sprigg spent a summer among them ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 7th 1999 by Vintage (first published May 19th 1998)
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Over summer break from college, the author worked in a Shaker community for the summer of 1972 as a tour guide. This book is her account of that time. Worthwhile in that this is likely the last account of a living Shaker community from someone who directly observed it, and what's more, observed it shortly before the community went extinct. Frustrating in that for all the uniqueness of that experience, the woman can't write.
This book is an amazing example of how lazy writing can butcher even the most fascinating of experiences. June Sprigg, who got to spend a summer with the Shakers, regurgitates that time with almost no emotion or depth.

The Shakers, a religious group started in the 1700s that has historically been known for their compassion, craftsmanship, and celibacy, are now (basically) extinct. Sprigg's time spent during the last few years of this community was extremely special and rare, and it's sad that her
Very sweet and enjoyable. Slow to read but I learned a lot. Good descriptive writing.

"August - Mildred's garden reached a new crescendo of glory as the days began to grow shorter rivaled by the wild beauty of the roadside. Constellations of small purple asters appeared in both places. Goldenrod drifted over the fields. The sky itself changed now, no more the soft, hazy blue of June; it grew sharper and deeper, more keenly blue. Every day twilight came maybe sixty or seventy heartbeats sooner."

Sprigg's memoir of how she first lived with the Canterbury Shakers during a summer while she was a college student. It is both a coming of age story, and also an explanation of how Sprigg became a shaker scholar. She doesn't offer many insights about her personal life, but she does show how a young person could be attracted to the older Shaker sisters and to the kind of family and commnity offered by Shaker societies.
I wish I had the opportunity that June Sprigg writes about in this book. I'm glad I got to live vicariously through her writing. Just when I need a break from a culture obsessed with youth, beauty, material goods and superfluous things, I read this memoir of summer spent with seven remaining Shaker sisters in the New Hampshire community. I love this book.
Liddy Barlow
Absolutely fantastic -- a culture I've always been interested in, a writer who really remembers being nineteen, and a lot of great things to think about: "I saw that goodness could be a brave moral choice, not a mere refuge for the faint of heart." Marred only by a few infelicitous phrases. [Reviewed in the "book journal" I kept throughout 1999.]
I enjoyed this very much. After visiting Canterbury Shaker Village last month, I remembered that this book had been sitting in the bookcase for a long time. I think I started it once before, but didn't finish it. If you have a special interest in the Shakers, or have visited the Village in NH, you'll enjoy this.
Lovely little memoir about a girl who worked summers as a tour guide at one of the last operative Shaker villages in the country. I loved how she described the surviving sisters as 'extra grandmothers.' Quick read -- very uplifting!
Anne Enste
Having visited the Canterbury Shaker Village just one week before reading this I found it just wonderful.
Very interesting account of life among the last remaining Shakers.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
June spends a summer with the last of the Shakers
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