Cabin: Two Brothers, a Dream, and Five Acres in Maine

Cabin: Two Brothers, a Dream, and Five Acres in Maine

4.7 16
by Lou Ureneck
     
 

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Inspired by his From the Ground Up New York Times blog, a beautifully written memoir about building and brotherhood.

Confronted with the disappointments and knockdowns that can come in middle age-job loss, the death of his mother, a health scare, a divorce-Lou Ureneck needed a project that would engage the better part of him and put him back in

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Overview

Inspired by his From the Ground Up New York Times blog, a beautifully written memoir about building and brotherhood.

Confronted with the disappointments and knockdowns that can come in middle age-job loss, the death of his mother, a health scare, a divorce-Lou Ureneck needed a project that would engage the better part of him and put him back in life's good graces. City-bound for a decade, Lou decided he needed to build a simple post-and-beam cabin in the woods. He bought five acres in the hills of western Maine and asked his younger brother, Paul, to help him.

Twenty years earlier the brothers had built a house together. Now Lou saw working with Paul as a way to reconnect with their shared history and to rediscover his truest self. As the brothers-with the help of Paul's sons-undertake the challenging construction, nothing seems to go according to plan. But as they raise the cabin, Ureneck eloquently reveals his own evolving insights into the richness and complexity of family relationships, the healing power of nature, and the need to root oneself in a place one can call home. With its exploration of the satisfaction of building and of physical labor, Cabin will also appeal to readers of Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Matthew Crawford's Shop Class as Soulcraft, and Tracy Kidder's House.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ureneck is no stranger to the outdoors: his first book, Backcast: Fatherhood, Flyfishing and a River Journey Through the Heart of Alaska, was a satisfying and illuminating look at the connections between internal and external landscapes. This follow-up is a continuation of Ureneck's personal journey that will thoroughly satisfy fans of his earlier work. Following a job loss, a divorce, his mother's death, and other bouts of "coming to terms with being the generation within the family that stood between the children and death," Ureneck decides to build a cabin on a piece of "rugged Maine hillside" and make it "my own in the way that the landscape of my boyhood had been my own." Enlisting his brother Paul, an experienced builder, to help with the construction, Ureneck spends two seasons building his simple cabin, and his detailed, almost day-by-day account of that time deftly combines the physical ("Post and beam carpentry owns a vocabulary every bit as rich and arcane as that of nineteenth-century seamanship"), the philosophical ("Has the departure of nature from our lives impaired our ability to make moral decisions?"), and the familial ("When you get around to reassembling your life... it's good to have someone at your side who remembers how the parts once fit together. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"Terrific . . . bracing, beautiful, and profoundly heart-felt . . . Ureneck has an immensely observant eye for the richness of nature." --The Boston Globe

"An exceptional book . . . Ureneck succeeds in delivering an almost tangible experience of escape…Ureneck strikes a pitch-perfect balance in relating the construction of a cabin and the changes going on in his life . . . as close as a book could come to really capturing that feeling of going to the woods to live deliberately." -The Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Beautifully written . . . a multilayered memoir laced with rich veins of natural history . . . Ureneck shows a gift for emotional exploration and unflinching remembrance…he is a keen observer, blessed and cursed with extraordinary recall and sensitivity." -The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Like a shelter Magazine with soul . . . Ureneck's account is enriched by pleasing vignettes and family history." --The New York Times

"A book to be savored and absorbed, piece by piece . . . Ureneck is a thinking man's outdoor writer . . . his words are chosen precisely, a clear product of careful contemplation about the task at hand and the point he is trying to make . . . [An] ultimately uplifting book about the ability of people to face challenges and make worthwhile changes, and the restorative powers that magically exist, waiting to be harnessed, deep in the Maine woods." -The Bangor Daily News

"Graceful . . . an inspiring literary construction that lovingly illuminates the depth of family bonds and the character and culture of the New England countryside." -National Geographic Traveler

"Ureneck takes advantage of the memoir's flexible form to dip into his past, both distant and recent, which gives the story a rich texture.-Ureneck is a sensitive narrator, somewhat wounded by life, and this sensitivity is a strength of the book." -Down East Magazine

Kirkus Reviews

A modern-day Walden with a midlife twist.

"I had been city-bound for nearly a decade, dealing with the usual knockdowns and disappointments of middle-age," writes Ureneck (Journalism/Boston Univ.; Backcast: Fatherhood, Fly-fishing, and a River Journey Through the Heart of Alaska, 2007). "The notion of building a cabin—a boy's dream really—seemed a way to get a purchase on life's next turn." The author was not consciously attempting a Thoreauvian experiment in self-sufficiency. Rather, he was trying to save himself from the wreckage—a painful divorce, the loss of his mother and uncles to death and disease and a major career change—of a life gone awry. Loneliness and despair threatened to engulf him; the only family members who remained were his two grown children, both of whom lived apart from him and his younger brother Paul, a man absorbed by his own trials. Heartsick and confused, he bought a piece of land in the woods of western Maine. There, Ureneck, along with his brother and his brother's sons, spent the latter part of 2008 and all of 2009 constructing the cabin, "employing, as much as possible, old-fashioned wood joinery rather than nails." At first, this "experiment in mental health" was the author's way to enjoy the two things that had been constants in an otherwise fragmented life: Paul's company and a love of the natural world. But as the project evolved, Ureneck realized that the cabin-building process—selecting the timber to use in construction; digging and laying in the foundations; assembling the wood pieces together; securing the final structure both inside and out—was allowing him to not only confront and resolve issues from his past, but also giving him the opportunity to build a mature relationship with a beloved brother he felt he had let down in youth.

Ureneck's story is simple, but it rewards abundantly by affirming the unexpected possibilities for renewal that life offers.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143122081
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/27/2012
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
893,364
Product dimensions:
7.50(w) x 5.10(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Terrific . . . bracing, beautiful, and profoundly heart-felt . . . Ureneck has an immensely observant eye for the richness of nature.” -The Boston Globe

"An exceptional book . . . Ureneck succeeds in delivering an almost tangible experience of escape…Ureneck strikes a pitch-perfect balance in relating the construction of a cabin and the changes going on in his life . . . as close as a book could come to really capturing that feeling of going to the woods to live deliberately.” -The Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Beautifully written . . . a multilayered memoir laced with rich veins of natural history . . . Ureneck shows a gift for emotional exploration and unflinching remembrance…he is a keen observer, blessed and cursed with extraordinary recall and sensitivity.” -The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Like a shelter magazine with soul . . . Ureneck’s account is enriched by pleasing vignettes and family history.” -The New York Times

“A book to be savored and absorbed, piece by piece . . . Ureneck is a thinking man’s outdoor writer . . . his words are chosen precisely, a clear product of careful contemplation about the task at hand and the point he is trying to make . . . [An] ultimately uplifting book about the ability of people to face challenges and make worthwhile changes, and the restorative powers that magically exist, waiting to be harnessed, deep in the Maine woods.” -The Bangor Daily News

“Graceful . . . an inspiring literary construction that lovingly illuminates the depth of family bonds and the character and culture of the New England countryside.” -National Geographic Traveler

“Ureneck takes advantage of the memoir’s flexible form to dip into his past, both distant and recent, which gives the story a rich texture. Ureneck is a sensitive narrator, somewhat wounded by life, and this sensitivity is a strength of the book.” -Down East Magazine

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