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on November 11, 2004
Other reviewers have summarized this book so I'll just make a few comments.

This book really draws you in and lets you share the life they live without technology. He minimizes discussions of theology, for which I was thankful. I am hoping to change my life in ways that will give me more time and mastery over my life rather than my modern life which in some ways has mastery over me. I love books which present an alternative way of living- I can learn from their mistakes and also pick out the best parts to put together to make a new life.

I also wanted to mention that I did not get the anti-woman impression that the other feminist reviewer did. I don't know that I call myself a feminist but I certainly am a woman who identifies with many of their beliefs. As far as I could tell he treated his wife with respect and I think that showed in the telling of the story. He made if clear that this adventure was something that he wanted more than she did, and that after the 18 months were over it would be her choice what to do next. When he mentioned Mary gabbing with the neighbors, he mentioned that he did too. In the previous paragraph for example, he had mentioned that he spent a half-hour every time he made a photocopy because he had to catch up on the news in town. In the section on childbirth, he just tries to balance the dangers of home birth (they had three midwives plus a doctor stopped by) with the dangers of hospital births (hospital infections, 1 out of 3 births in boston hospitals is by cesarean).

In summary, it's a wonderful book if you like books which let you explore someone else's life. If you are overwhelmed by how much you pay (in time and money) for technologies like car upkeep and power tools, you might even learn a thing or two.
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on August 22, 2004
If you're considering purchasing this book, keep in mind, it's quite brief. I would have liked more depth and detail with regards to the physical challenges of his 18 months with the "Minimites". I was reading this book in the hopes of actually learning something about living a low-tech lifestyle, but Eric chose to focus more on the emotional impact the lifestyle had on himself and his wife, and he spent a large part of the story giving brief portrayals of his neighbors in the community.

What Eric does provide is certainly not bad. I enjoyed the diversity of the neighborhood around him, and I did like the basic theme of the book - when people are brought together under the auspices of labor, a true sense of community is obtained and the work itself is all but forgotten. I just didn't feel that this short read (a very fast reading 256 pages) provided the depth I was looking for.
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What makes this such an interesting book is a variety of things. First off the author is MIT educated, Catholic and willing along with his new wife to try an experiment. Live with as little technology as possible for over a year, maybe two. True, they do not go cold turkey, because they do own a car which they keep and use for over a year. But considering the way they grew up and lived, going sans indoor plumbing, regular washer and dryer, cook stove, refrigerator, computer, telephone is a huge cultural shock for someone. Especially if its a way of life and not simply a break from the regular world.

Loved reading how they struggled to shed the small issues like sleeping in, or taking naps when the work became so hard and the heat outside to hot. Interesting reading how they dealt with work, cooking, canning food, using an old wringer washer that required hauling water, heating it etc. Same with taking a hot bath. Hot summers and something as simple as moving the bed layout and opening windows for a cross breeze.

Or the work of planting enough pumpkins and sorghum to sell to at least meet expenses. Learning how to use a horse drawn plow and harvester. Rasing chickens and swine for food and all that is involved with culling them and preserving what one grows so one can survive and eat during the non productive winter months.

Then having a baby at home and incorporating washing diapers, late night feedings, with keeping the homestead going on less sleep. Dealing with squabbles that were about her sewing away and he's hungry from working all day, yet nothing has been cooked for dinner.

Was pleased to read his defense if you will of the women who co-own and run a family homestead which is what the Amish and many Mennonites do. How they are indeed equal partners at home. Had never heard the term Minnimites before and it suggested to me that there are far more Minnimite minded folks here in the states that I realized. Including here in the Sierras. Albeit they aren't 'organized' religiously, but their lifestyle certainly denotes a simpler more content way of life.

One looks around them and see all the 'labor saving devises' we have and yet so many people complain of not having enough time to do things. Maybe all these modern technological items waste more of our time than they save? How many hours, as the book shows, are wasted watching mindless shows on TV, or reading or talking idle nonsense on the Internet? How much money is spent joining a fitness center, when planting a vegetable garden and tending it a half hour a day would be just as or more healthy? How much better would we be if more of us rode bikes, rather than jump in the gas fueled car to drive to the store to buy stuff we probably don't need and junk food we really don't need?

The book simply is a thought provoking book that even the hardest person will be made gentler by. I cannot help but think, anyone who reads it will be changed in some small way.
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on November 24, 2004
Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology is the story of how a young man and his wife embark upon a journey that at heart is straight out of Thoreau's Walden. Ostensibly, Mr. and Mrs. Brende are seeking a refuge, however temporary, from modernity. What they in fact are doing is more serious: they report back, they are sending us their findings--which is what Thoreau understood Emerson to be saying in his essay on "Self-Reliance": Leave the hurly-burly behind. Clear your head. Come back and tell us what the air is like. Life among the "Minimites" is Brende's addendum to what is by now something of a long-standing tradition (Letters From an American Farmer; Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; On the Road) in American Literature.

The idea that anyone today might have reservations about our over-reliance on technology is not itself new; others have been down this road before. But rarely has it been done with such grace and sensitivity. The story begins at MIT, where our narrator (Brende), while working toward his Ph.D., is trying to come to grips with a burgeoning realization that the indiscriminate use of technology exacts a price, and that for some people, that price--a dilution of what might be called the 'joy' we humans can feel when we work with our hands--is indeed a steep price to pay. In Better Off, Brende demonstrates, by putting the gloves on and doing the work himself (under the watchful and often wry eyes of his 'Minimite' friends and neighbors), that we have more control over the technological choices we make in life than most of us ever come to understand, and that there are things we can do to regain some of those old feelings we have lost at the hands of machines.

Better Off is exceedingly well-written. Brende has a flair for understatement, and an utterly keen eye for the telling detail and the delightful anecdote. My copy of the book is littered with yellow post-its. I came away from the book with the unalterable sense that I knew these people, these 'Minimites' (especially the Millers). Important to note, too, is that Better Off is not an anti-technological screed. Most of the people Brende lived among depended upon some use of technology: what they tended to do was to use the minimum necessary to accomplish a given task. Tasks! Ends and means! Who talks about these things anymore?

By and large, all the characters in the book are trying to lead a balanced existence, and they accomplish this by respecting the power of machinery, and by not letting go of what it is in our physical nature that cries out for some good hard work. And no one works alone. The Minimites, like their 19th-century utopian counterparts, work together: "many hands make work light." Community! There's another of those forgotten words. As Brende says, and it's a good notion to get hold of: "there is no end to the possible uses of technology...but in all cases it (technology) must serve our needs, not the reverse." Philosophically speaking, that's what his book is about, hammering that idea into some kind of usable shape. On a moral level, however--and maybe this is more vital--Better Off is a how-to book on the importance of living deliberately.
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VINE VOICEon May 30, 2005
Eric Brende's personal look at the impact of technology on the modern world is a book well worth reading (and just as important, readable). As a computer programmer and fan of all things science fiction, I found this book a necessary critique of the "Star Trek"-type attitude that technology is only an agent for good in the world.

But this is no dry, boring academic treatise. By writing about his actual life experiences living for 18 months in an Amish-like community, Brende allows us to enter the actual thought process of these people and their decision to forego technologies most of us believe are "essential". He takes us past our stereotypes to understand why they have made the decisions that, frankly, make them seem crazy to the outside world.

I initially went into this book assuming that Brende would believe that all technology was evil and destructive. But that is the surprise here: Brende does not think all technology should be rejected outright; instead, all technology should be thoughtfully judged for possible negative side-effects before embracing it whole-heartedly. He calls us to remember the unintended consequences of much of our technology. A case in point he mentions is the use of the telephone. In the community he lived in, there was debate on the use of the telephone after a woman was saved in childbirth after a midwife called a doctor. Everyone agreed that telephones could serve useful purposes (such as the midwife's use), but many worried that overuse of it led to idle chatter and a destruction of interpersonal social communications. Their decision was to continue to have phones available to the community, but not allow them for anything except emergency uses. Considering the fact that you can't sit in any public location today without being bombarded with constant (and banal) cell-phone chattering all around you, it seems to me that the community might be on to something.

As we progress to a "Brave New World" of experimentation on human beings for medical reasons, remotely-controlled military weapons systems, and communications overload, I think Brende's book is a welcome wake-up call to analyze what really makes us human and how modern technology was to be the servant of humanity, not our master.
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on November 21, 2007
The landscape of most American communities continues to transform into bland uniformity, with a proliferation of strip malls and box stores around which hives of ticky-tacky suburban neighborhoods abound. The neighborhoods are strangely quiet during most weekdays, as their inhabitants are busy elsewhere, braving daily freeway commutes to their jobs, where they toil to pay the mortgages on the homes they seldom see. Even when they do have leisure time to spend at home, many leave again to congregate with strangers in shopping malls, movie theaters, and restaurants, as well as pursuing other forms of entertaining distraction. Many see this as progress and proclaim it is very good.

Yet there have always been those who have questioned whether or not the prevailing form of "civilization" is as good as prevailing opinion proclaims. These folks are usually written off by those who blithely accept the status quo, with pejoratives used to marginalize their qualms: "kooks," "culturally irrelevant," and "disestablishmentarian" are a few of the names bandied about. Yet the counter-cultural fringe doesn't go away, and their questions are resonating with more and more people who are noticing the landscape and don't like what they see.

The questions vary, but most boil down to this: when we accept the status quo are we accepting the destruction of what Russell Kirk called "the Permanent Things"?

Asking and doing are two different things, however. Eric Brende is a man who asks a lot of questions, but he and his wife Mary also decided to do something to find answers. Brende details their quest in the book Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology (HarperCollins, 2004).

I imagine that Eric Brende was one of those toddlers who drove his mother crazy asking, "Why?" about everything. He admits that by his adolescent years he had "cultural indigestion," though he had immersed himself in television, science fiction, and music as a boy, and later even held a job at McDonald's trying to earn money for a car. But with what would become typical of his cost-benefit style of analysis, he decided that a bicycle would make more sense. He developed a habit of questioning the benefits of technology, making a distinction between tools and automatic machines. He says,

Everyone tended to treat them alike, as neutral agents of human intention. But machines clearly were not neutral or inert objects. They were complex fuel-consuming entities with certain definite proclivities and needs. Besides often depriving their users of skills and physical exercise, they created new and artificial demands--for fuel, space, money, and time. These in turn crowded out other important human pursuits, like involvement in family and community, or even the process of thinking itself. The very act of accepting the machine was becoming automatic. As a graduate student at that bastion of progress, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brende even had the temerity to write a paper defending the Luddites.

Those whose idea of getting back to nature is using their own espresso maker with organic coffee beans rather than patronizing Starbucks probably think that the Amish people represent the extreme end of technological repudiation. That would be false. Eric and Mary Brende actually discovered an Anabaptist community in rural Missouri that thinks the Amish are liberals who have run off the rails. This group lives without electricity and survives mostly by subsistence farming. In 1996, the Brendes finagled an invite to live with them for 18 months to test what had up till then just been Eric's theory: that scaling back technology would give more leisure time, not less.

In order to protect their identity and location, Brende calls the people he and his new wife lived with the "Minimites." They rented a cottage and some land from a Minimite family, the Millers, who became not only next-door neighbors, but friends who exemplified the proverb, "A friend in need is a friend in deed." The Brendes quickly found that if you don't depend on technology, then you had better learn to depend on others, as well as be willing to lend a hand yourself, when necessary.

Despite being cautiously enthralled with the idea of going off the grid and raising his own food, the Roman Catholic, Yale University graduate Brende had some tentative stereotypes about the bearded men and the women in their modest frocks and pleated caps. The Minimites also reserved opinion concerning the outsiders before relaxing their reserve. But after spending time with one another, mostly in work-related activities such as canning, hoeing, threshing, and barn raising, the walls lowered and the relationships warmed.

There was this phrase they kept repeating: "Many hands make work light." The statement was true, though hard to explain. Gradually, as you applied yourself to your task, the threads of friendship and conversation would grow and connect you to laborers around you. Then everything suddenly became inverted. You'd forget you were working and get caught up in the camaraderie, the sense of lightened effort. This surely must rank among the greatest of labor-saving secrets. Work folded into fun and disappeared. Friendship, conversation, exercise, fresh air, all melded together into a single act of mutual self-forgetting.

Brende tells of his surprise as the men who seemed so alike in their dour exteriors eventually distinguished themselves through their different personality quirks. Some had been part of similar communities all their lives, but many had, like the Brendes, come from the modern world and radically changed their lifestyles, often for the sake of their children. There was Edward, the ex-Vietnam veteran who liked to tell jokes then apologized for it; he and his wife would sometimes spar in front of others. There was Cornelius, the reclusive elderly schoolteacher who felt the Minimites were too materialistic and who lived like a hermit on the fringes of this fringe group. There was Harvey, Mr. Miller's oldest son, who could be both crude and jolly as he enjoyed his gargantuan meals, but who knew how to handle an axe and preferred it over a chain saw because "when I stop, it stops too."

In the cost-benefit scheme of things, Brende was constantly evaluating the success of his experiment. When they first arrived in the reclusive community, the Brendes were enchanted with many aspects of their new life, including the neat little home with its tidy yard and garden, the flush of success when the first vegetables began to grow, the physical benefits of hard work and the consonant ability to truly enjoy one's leisure. But weeds inevitably grow, and "weeds in particular must be hoed on time, whether you have the will to hoe or not." Lack of refrigeration and planning made the lack of variety in meals become onerous, for a time. It quickly became a burden to carry all their water from a spring, and attempts to construct a ram to bring water to the house only resulted in running from some cows, but no running water. And working in extreme heat and extreme cold could be downright uncomfortable.

Less is usually more is the conclusion Brende draws. After passing out from heatstroke at a threshing party, at first he wondered if his entire premise about technology had been a fantasy. "[The threshing] appeared to be a form of naked physical toil that only a glutton for punishment would willingly engage in. Was there a need for more machinery here?" But after he realized that the other workers had survived the first threshing of the season unscathed, he remembered that he had just returned from a trip with his wife in an air-conditioned car where they had been in air-conditioned buildings. His body was not yet acclimatized to the heat, thanks to technology.

Brende also notes that reducing their dependence on technology had the benefit of heightening their sensory perceptions as well as their enjoyment of everyday activities. When their garden finally began producing and Mary finally began consulting cookbooks and learning the craft of cooking--"The domestic dungeon burst its bonds, and Mary the artiste stepped forth"--they discovered the joy of tasting real, fresh food. Long evenings were spent reading, as well as just listening to the ebb and flow of the sounds outside, or watching fireflies cavort about the ceiling. Kerosene lamps provided illumination at night without eliminating the natural light from the stars (though Minimites kept flashlights for emergencies). Life was lived according to the natural cycles of daylight and nighttime, and while work was physically demanding, it was limited by these natural boundaries. The down-side was occasional moodiness induced by long winter days without much light, but the inevitable return of spring was that much sweeter.

Many have heard of the Gilbreth family in the story Cheaper by the Dozen. The famous family with 12 children was portrayed first in a book, then some 1950s movies (then in a couple of recent and forgettable remakes of the original movies). In the real-life clan, the parents were both "efficiency experts," applying their time-saving methods to their large brood, often with amusing results, such as when the children regaled their new principal with an explanation of how their father taught them to bathe. Efficiency in the early twentieth-century was big business, and Eric Brende notes the contributions of Frederick Taylor who was known as the father of "scientific management."

Wielding a stopwatch, he would measure the time it took a worker to perform a given task, such as shoveling dirt. Then he would analyze the task, breaking it down into segments, eliminating any unnecessary motions and replacing them with more efficient ones. The task was now standardized. Using Taylor's findings, a manager could instruct an employee how to shovel dirt in one perfect, unvarying pattern, as if he were a robot, and reprimand him if he deviated to the slightest degree. Taylorism thence became one of the most slavish forms of technological servility, parodied by Charlie Chaplin in the movie Modern Times.

Yet what seems like a good idea may have unintended consequences, Brende believes. More stuff requires more maintenance, and more time working to keep up with the Joneses who have more stuff than you. Comparing the height of threshing season (lasting two to four weeks), when the full day's workload resulted in just over nine hours of actual labor, to the year-round burden of a typical partner in a New York law firm who works 60-80 billable hours, Brende decided that his yoke was easy and his burden light, especially when he considered the long breaks in the off season.

While criticizing modern notions of efficiency, however, Brende noticed that one kind of division of labor made a lot of sense, though to say so offends modern notions of egalitarianism: dividing the work of men and women. From the start, the Brendes fell into the pattern of Eric doing the heavy outside chores and Mary taking care of the house, with some overlap when it came to gardening, canning, and occasionally cooking, though Mary had been employed in Boston before their radical move from the city. The book tells about the home birth of the Brende's baby Hans; the midwife reluctantly accepted the hundred dollars they offered her. They took a weekend trip to have the baby baptized and to visit friends, and Eric decided to attend a college lecture about the social relations of the Amish. It turned out to be a feminist diatribe against their "patriarchal" system, critical of the delineation of men's and women's tasks. Brende, after living with "Amish" people for so long, couldn't sit still for that. While he didn't defend patriarchy, he did point out that "...never was there a society in which female, or womanly, values so dominated? Nurturing the land and the crops, deferring to the wishes of others, not having to get oneÕs own way? And because they live on farms, women make an important economic contribution to the home, well recognized by the community."

The occasional foray back into the industrial world didn't keep the Brendes from being tempted to remain in the Minimite community. But they eventually decided that they had learned what they set out to discover: how much or how little technology was really necessary for "human comfort and leisure," and they wanted to see how that could be worked out in the outside world. They found that life without technology is not the romantic utopia that some would like to imagine--it's hard work. They also found that such a life is impossible without community, and not many have the same ideals. Like a true idealist, though, Brende says, "What we saw in it can be transported; principles are lightweight and easily carried about." The Brendes carried them to an older neighborhood in Saint Louis where they now live with their children.
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on August 16, 2004
This is a wonderful book, warm, and very well written. Never pedantic, Brende in a wise and gentle way brings the reader to a deep reflection about our choices regarding technology. Our tools may in fact not be our friend, and the myth of progress which we all have been seduced into believing, may be just that, a myth.

Why would a student soon to be awarded a graduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say anything subversive about the Great God of Technology? It was not sabotage or subversion. If that had been the case "Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology" would be boring instead of the page-turner that it is.

Brende does not push the reader to go "cold turkey", but asks instead, "how much technology do we need?' Even during his undergraduate years at Yale it dawned on Brende that labor saving devices are creating more labor than they save.

Between semesters at MIT, Brende decided it was time to take the slow way to the Midwest. Somewhere in Pennsylvania a man in very clean well-pressed black clothes, wearing a tall hat and a long black beard got on the bus. At a rest stop he learned that the man was from an obscure part of the country--a location Brende has agreed not to reveal in his book. The bearded man was not Amish, but, adopting a simple lifestyle, he lived in a community Brende refers to as Minimites.

Brende went on a quest to this community, searching for the balancing point and learned that an economy of means is sought in everything--using only as much technology as is necessary. And exercise, social interactions, a test of one's wits, whether it be a barn raising or a threshing--everything is combined with community.
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on January 18, 2005
"It's good."

That's the answer to the question anyone reading "Customer Reviews" is asking. Eric Brende's surprisingly eloquent writing style (for a masters graduate from MIT) is the perfect vessel for a story all about minimalism. He manages to pick out the fun, amusing, telling anecdotes, and minimizes on the monotonous journal style writing, you get a good sense of the work performed and inconveniences encountered. You also get the chance to either be amazed at his willingness to learn/experiment, or at his utter lack of useful base knowledge (depending on the amount that you have). I do, however, recommend that if your vocabulary isn't top notch, you keep a dictionary handy, Brende occasionally interjects entertaining, extremely descriptive, if somewhat obscure, words into his narrative.

As a piece of research (which I don't believe Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology is even trying to masquerade as) it is trash. As a literary account of a research project in minimalism, its quite well done. It's not Walden Pond because, unlike Thoreau, Eric Brende and his wife, Mary, actually do work, and participate in the community.

The ending, though rushed, does a decent job in tying up the loose ends, but perhaps creates a few too many questions.

As for the review entitled "Let them eat cake" by Noman "0000," it is quite apparent that the reviewer didn't read past chapter 2, or perhaps past chapter 1. The Brendes are self-sufficient. They *do* work, they're not just in a minimalist community watching the members work on their farms from their porch, they're living the life-style. As for "Blue Monday" it was mostly called "blue monday" due to bluing which is a dye, a *blue* dye which would leave people, quite literally, blue (that would be looking like a Smurf, for those of you not following). (note: the Brendes do their laundry without electricity)

Pick it up, it's worth a read if you're looking to simplify or if, like me, you're a technophile and want to see the other side. If you're an engineer of any sort, especially a software engineer, you need to have this book, and take heed: making technology to make life better only works if you do it right.
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on January 18, 2007
I loved the premise of this book, the modern spin on classic Thoreou with more exploration of the concept of community and I admire the author's grit and determination (with a more-than-healthy dose of literary ambition and academic arrogance)to come down out of his academic tower of abstract ideas and romantic ideals and attempt to really live them out.

They (or I really should say he, since it is made clear in the course of the book who really runs the show) go about it in a half-hearted way, though. They keep their car, for one, which would be understandable if it was stored and used only for emergancies, but instead they use it pretty much whenever they feel like it. They leave the farm on several road trips and take off whenever they want to travel across the country or shop at Kmart for baby items.

With only a few months left in their experiment they abruptly "realize" that the car is the worst technology of all and decide to get a horse and buggy. The author tries to disguise it in several pages worth of his characteristically awkward, sometimes bordering on purple, prose, but he leaves us with several clues as to what really compelled him to give up his car.

"A Sherriff's deputy, all polite and smiles, appeared out of the blue to inform us he had seen us in our car with the out-of-state license plate..."

"The state we lived in also required insurance..."

Hmmm.

This isn't the first or the last time they bend their own rules to suit themselves.

He has absolutely no compunction to set aside his ideals, exploit the love of his wife and the polite hospitality of their neighbors and their children for his own ends.This is then brushed away by the author as he feels he is doing all these hardworking, earnest non-Amish a favor, since his experience of manual labor is so refreshingly pleasant, he is merely spreading that joy around by allowing these kind people the opportunity to do his work for him.

I find it interesting, also, that although he goes to great pains to describe every shaft of light and every menial task of homestead life in the same glowingly romantic prose, it doesn't take him long to tire of it and begin a slow creep back into technology. By the end of the book he is driving a motorized rickshaw and/or old SUV through the heart of St Louis, shopping at the grocery store, carrying a cell phone, making photocopies, borrowing power tools, using the internet, watching TV at friend's houses and dining out once a week. So much for his glowing appreciation for the "peace and quiet" and "heaven" of the country. So much for his uplifting, beautiful experience performing manual labor.

Not only does he no longer farm or even grow most of his own food, he gave up the "good life" completely to live in a sprawling 2,600 sq ft home in the heart of the city! Not exactly my idea of living "minimally".

The book is light, easy reading, and the subject matter fascinating, but unfortunately that is overshadowed by one of the most gratingly misgynist, irratatingly socially oblivious narrators imaginable. His views on childbirth and the roles of women and his complete lack of awareness are at times inintentionally comical, and his descriptions of other people reveal way more about himself then they ever do about them.

It's still worth a quick read for fun, but don't expect much in the way of life-changing revelation.

I'll leave you to savor some of our favorite neo-Thoreau's pearls of wisdom...

"I looked at Mary. Didn't she know that baby items were the mother's responsibility? 'Can't you use your credit card,' I asked."

"...never was there a society in which female, or womanly, values so dominated. Nurturing...deferring to the wishes of others, not having to get ones own way." and then "The entire audience was letting out a sigh of approval at my words..."

"While we adjusted to the new routine...[the pseudo-Amish neighbors and their children] cleaned up the house, mowed the yard, chopped the wood, transplanted spring greens in the garden, baked bread, washed diapers and clothes, fixed the gate...Mary and I appreciated the extra time..."
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on November 6, 2006
I liked this book very much when I picked it up; less when I finished it. Here are my problems with the book as written.

I hated the writing style. What's wrong with writing directly? When I read phrases such as "jocund betrothal", I think of Mark Twain's advice to James Fenimore Cooper to use the right word, and not its second cousin.

Why could it not be more concrete? Brende writes that with a cash crop totalling $2,000, he and his wife approached self-sufficiency. However, their rent was $150 per month, or $1,800 per year. Even with his later arrangement to work off rent, it seems unlikely that their harvest paid for all their expenses. How much were their expenses, and how did they pay?

And what was Mary's experience of all this? At the beginning of the book, she is fearful of being stuck with all the domestic labor because of her sex. At the end, she cooks, cans, gardens and home-schools their children while Eric does odd projects, works in their B&B, and drives the rickshaw (which is popular mostly on Saturdays). Who does more work in this household? I also found it creepy that when he stops to talk, it is to "converse", whereas when Mary does it, it is to "gab".
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