Melissa's Reviews > The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living

The Good Life by Helen Nearing
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Jan 02, 13

Read from June 03 to July 01, 2012

I'd say this was the book that did it: effectively killed that far-off fantasy of procuring a small piece of land, building a little house, and living off mostly what we could do with our hands.
It's funny, because when I saw it one night at a used bookstore in Anchorage, it sang out to me, and I had this idea that all the answers were inside. In a way, they were. I learned that to live in the way described in this book requires just about everything you have, and I realized that the life I've created thus far -- a life of trying to write and be an artist, a life of raising a young family -- is simply not compatible with the time and effort and sacrifice needed to build these self-sufficiency skills. Maybe when we're fifty, who knows. It is a lifestyle that remains throughly respectable in my mind, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the person to do this. It give me hope, though, to think of people who are.
And these people are pretty fascinating. The Nearings are hard-core -- I love the part where he describes just washing the fresh vegetables and setting them on the table and that's dinner. But there are obvious lessons anyone can learn from this account, lessons about what we can give up, about what we are capable of, about hard work and idealism and values.
As far as the writing style goes, parts of this book were a total slog simply because the sentences were dry or repetitive. The best parts reminded me of Pound's _ABC's of Reading_ -- the sense of an impassioned man ranting as if he's figured it all out, if only anyone would listen to him. What I mean is, the writing improved when there was more feeling involved. I was intrigued, too, by the politics of the time, and the deliberate choices they made.
"We were not seeking to escape. Quite the contrary, we wanted to find a way in which we could put more into life and get more out of it."
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