A Family Place - Charles Gaines
A memoir of building a cabin, and rebuilding a family, in Nova Scotia: “In the rich tradition of Thoreau’s Walden and Tracy Kidder’s House” (The New York Times).
In 1990, writer Charles Gaines and his artist wife, Patricia, bought 160 acres of wild land on the northeast coast of Nova Scotia. Eventually, they began to see the land as a place that might heal their recently battered marriage, and as an opportunity to take on a big, risky, long-term project instead of settling into the caution and gradual losses of middle-class middle age. Enlisting their children and their daughter’s carpenter boyfriend, they decided to build a cabin on the land the following summer, with their own hands, as a family venture.
This “heartwarming memoir” recounts that summer’s sometimes harrowing, sometimes hilarious events with passages of the family’s history that dramatize what is at stake for each of them in Nova Scotia (Publishers Weekly). Gaines describes the process of building a cabin while living in tents without electricity or running water, and the pleasures and limitations of a life so simplified that a week’s biggest social event is a bonfire. He draws a portrait of the small, generous Acadian community of farmers and lobster fishermen surrounding their land, and traces the history of that land to its original French-Acadian owner. And he tracks the mood of his family through the long, difficult summer—from initial enthusiasm to near mutiny, and finally to exhilaration and deep satisfaction at having built something that will last.
“Remarkable.” —Susan Cheever
“Weaving together details of construction and carpentry with personal revelations about marriage and midlife, the narrative works as both a factual account of housebuilding and a poetic testimony of love lost and found . . . A beautifully written memoir.” —Kirkus Reviews