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The Unsettlers : In Search of the Good Life in Today's America
by Mark Sundeen


Overview - "An in-depth and compelling account of diverse Americans living off the grid." --Los Angeles Times

The radical search for the simple life in today's America.

On a frigid April night, a classically trained opera singer, five months pregnant, and her husband, a former marine biologist, disembark an Amtrak train in La Plata, Missouri, assemble two bikes, and pedal off into the night, bound for a homestead they've purchased, sight unseen.  Read more...


 
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More About The Unsettlers by Mark Sundeen
 
 
 
Overview
"An in-depth and compelling account of diverse Americans living off the grid." --Los Angeles Times

The radical search for the simple life in today's America.

On a frigid April night, a classically trained opera singer, five months pregnant, and her husband, a former marine biologist, disembark an Amtrak train in La Plata, Missouri, assemble two bikes, and pedal off into the night, bound for a homestead they've purchased, sight unseen. Meanwhile, a horticulturist, heir to the Great Migration that brought masses of African Americans to Detroit, and her husband, a product of the white flight from it, have turned to urban farming to revitalize the blighted city they both love. And near Missoula, Montana, a couple who have been at the forefront of organic farming for decades navigate what it means to live and raise a family ethically.

A work of immersive journalism steeped in a distinctively American social history and sparked by a personal quest, The Unsettlers traces the search for the simple life through the stories of these new pioneers and what inspired each of them to look for -- or create -- a better existence. Captivating and clear-eyed, it dares us to imagine what a sustainable, ethical, authentic future might actually look like.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781594631580
  • ISBN-10: 1594631581
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books
  • Publish Date: January 2017
  • Page Count: 336
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds


Related Categories

Books > House & Home > Sustainable Living
Books > History > United States - 21st Century
Books > History > Social History

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2016-09-05
  • Reviewer: Staff

Sundeen (The Man Who Quit Money) embarks on a cross-country journey to find others invested in living a simpler life, and to discover how he and his wife, Cedar, can get closer to that experience. Sundeen visits three couples: Ethan and Sarah in La Plata, Mo.; Greg and Olivia in Detroit; and Steve and Luci in Victor, Mont. All of them have made a serious commitment to sustainable living; some live without electricity, and others grow food for themselves and their neighbors. The book suffers from a tone that veers into preachiness, and though Sundeen raises questions of privilege, his treatment of it is superficial. In Detroit, the book is at its most engaging. The work that Greg and Olivia put into their farm is arduous, but the way they talk about their work is less self-righteous than the other couples. Sundeen does ask important questions about technology, the economy, and the moral implications of being both critic and participant in our society. Still, readers will be left wondering what large-scale simple living might look like. Agent: Richard Abate, 3 Arts Entertainment. (Jan.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Back to living off the land

It’s comforting to curl up with a good back-to-the-land book and imagine ourselves living a charmed life outside of society’s strictures. That’s not this book. The Unsettlers: In Search of the Good Life in Today’s America is instead a realistic look at how three families worked—and worked incredibly hard—to create a better world, with varying degrees of success. Sundeen, a journalist and author of The Man Who Quit Money, examines the complex, painful and rewarding journeys of radical retreatants in Missouri, activist urban farmers in Detroit and no-nonsense homesteaders in Montana.

There are few easy answers in Sundeen’s telling of these diverse stories, which he neatly juxtaposes with his own reflections without stooping to the condescension that can creep into stories about the search for a better way. He visits the charismatic Ethan Hughes and his wife, Sarah Wilcox, at the Possibility Alliance in Missouri and is taken with their consensus-driven, computer-free lifestyle, yet admits to personally being seduced by convenience store rotisserie chicken and flashy sports car rentals. He shows us Detroit natives Olivia Hubert and Greg Willerer, growing vegetables in a downtrodden city where giving apples to the homeless only gives people fresh ammunition to lob at one another in the streets. And he brings us to the backyard skating rink of Montana’s Luci Brieger and Steve Elliot, who must run a tight ship to keep their 40-acre farm going, but don’t mind having a new truck in the driveway. 

Sundeen deepens his analysis by including economic data, historical perspective and literary references. Readers will hear not only from the expected writers like Wendell Berry but also from economist E. F. Schumacher and activist Malcolm X. Context is everything in this carefully and affectionately reported account of idealists working not to leave the real world behind, but to make it better.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews