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
“Lyrical and down-to-earth, wry and heartbreaking, This Life Is in Your Hands is a fascinating and powerful memoir. Melissa Coleman doesn’t just tell the story of her family’s brave experiment and private tragedy; she brings to life an important and underappreciated chapter of our recent history.” —Tom Perrotta
In a work of power and beauty reminiscent of Tobias Wolff, Jeannette Walls, and Dave Eggers, Melissa Coleman delivers a luminous, evocative childhood memoir exploring the hope and struggle behind her family's search for a sustainable lifestyle. With echoes of The Liars’ Club and Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Coleman’s searing chronicle tells the true story of her upbringing on communes and sustainable farms along the rugged Maine coastline in the 1970’s, embedded within a moving, personal quest for truth that her experiences produced.
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.
“Intense readability.... haunting power.... as well as lush, vivid atmosphere that is alluring in its own right.... [A] story so nuanced that it would be a disservice to reveal what was in store. If you want to know what happened, read it for yourself.”
— Janet Maslin, New York Times
“A fascinating look at the roots of the organic movement as well as a cautionary tale about the limits of idealism and the importance of forgiveness.”
— Washington Post
“Rendered with sublimity…. [Coleman] fluently describes the power of the natural world, familial love and heartbreak, grace after loss.”
— New York Times Book Review
“Coleman’s moving recounting never loses hope of redemption.”
— People, Lead Review "People Pick"
“The Colemans and the Nearings . . . worked hard to create an alternative economy that is still growing in rural America. This memoir is evidence of their great sacrifices.
— Los Angeles Times
“Combine the sincerity of Walden with the poignancy of The Glass Castle, add dashes of the lush prose found in The Botany of Desire, and you get This Life Is in Your Hands…. I was engaged and deeply moved by this evocative tale of Paradise found then lost.”
— Wally Lamb, The Hour I First Believed
“[This] is a rare breed of book-a memoir that justifies its own existence; that feels like it needs to exist…. Coleman shows that without the essential ingredient of heart, any family-no matter how perfect and revolutionary it seems-is in danger of experiencing real loss.”
“Lyrical and down-to-earth, wry and heartbreaking, This Life Is In Your Hands is a fascinating and powerful memoir. Melissa Coleman doesn’t just tell the story of her family’s brave experiment and private tragedy; she brings to life an important and underappreciated chapter of our recent history.”
— Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher
“With beautiful lyrical prose, Coleman shows us what life in a 1970s back-to-nature farm was like, and the dear price her family paid pursuing their dream.”
— Ann Hood, author of The Red Thread and The Knitting Circle
“Her memoir is as wrenching as it is beautifully written.”
— Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Melissa Coleman’s enthralling account of ‘70s back-to-the-land living is an important cultural and emotional document: this is a story about surviving and, eventually, thriving amidst the shadows of loss.”
— Heidi Julavits, author of The Uses of Enchantment
“A dream, a family, a heartbreaking tragedy—and a book I could not put down. Melissa Coleman’s memoir of a back-to-the-land childhood is fresh, organic, and gorgeously written.”
— Peter Behrens, author of The Law of Dreams
“An absorbing read that intelligently arrays the romanticism of living off the land against the emotional challenges of moving off the grid.”
— Grist Magazine
“This uncompromising memoir is tender, nonjudgmental, and heartfelt.”
— Tuscon Citizen
“A beautifully rendered memoir about growing up in a unique environment fueled by experimental back-to-the-land living. . . . Coleman illuminates the beauty of growing up in a family culture that valued nature and freedom of expression, but also frankly exposes farming’s negative impact on her family.
— Star Tribune