Tuesday, May 24, 2011

River House; A Memoir by Sarahlee Lawrence

I picked this book up from the public library a few weeks ago and enjoyed reading Sarahlee's story. At the start Sarahlee is in Peru preparing to raft a river with her friend Marco.  She's always enjoyed the water, taking after her father in this regard, although his first love is the ocean.  Sarahlee applied for and received a grant right out of college allowing her to travel for a year to a variety of different rivers and she loves it but as she is running the rivers she begins to miss home.  She gets a letter from her dad that a family friend, Geraldine, has died and her dad is saving her woodstove for the time when Sarahlee builds her own home.  She also reads Ralph Waldo Emerson's Waldo as she is traveling, which creates a longing for land as well. 

Her river images and her athleticism at manning the boats is an incredible part of her story but eventually she winds her way to Oregon and talks her dad into building a log home with her.  There is a lot of family history to understand; how her mother has always lived in this part of Central Oregon and is passionate about horses, how her father grew up on the beaches of California, surfing day in and day out and how all three of them are hearty, strong and determined. 

It is always difficult to move home after flying free for a few years of college but Sarahlee comes happily home, moves back into her old room and begins 12-15 hour work days, helping her dad with ranch chores and then planning, laying the groundwork and building her log home.  It's exhausting and at times they struggle with all they try to juggle as a family.   She finds out a few personal things about her father and how he has and continues to struggle with daily life on the ranch. Their relationship as a family was interesting but I prefered the interactions between her and her mother.  Her mother was low-key and calm; not filled with such frenetic energy. 

I was drawn to this memoir because of the father/daughter relationship and Sarahlee and her father's ties are strong but volatile, and eventually they learn to accept what is good about the other but it is a long journey together.  I  liked that Sarahlee strived to be intuned to nature, thinking about the placement of her home and how she cared about the earth around her.  What bogged me down was all the log cabin building lingo...I'm not a builder and I understand about as much as how Lincoln Logs notch together.  It was interesting but I found myself skimming some of the paragraphs about the house going up and the logs notching together just so.  I did fully understand how complicated and delicate of an operation it was. 

Checking out her website I discovered that she's begun an organic vegetable farm and I would love to read more about this  project.  I've already recommended this book to several very outdoorsy friends and family as well as to other members of my Good Spirits Book Club.  Be forewarned; the book contains swearing and a lot of references to her father's pot smoking and drinking habits. 

Find the author here -Sarahlee Lawrence.

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