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Cabin: Two Brothers, a Dream, and Five Acres in Maine Hardcover – September 15, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"Bracing, beautiful and profoundly heart-felt." -- Boston Globe.

"Meditative and restorative." -- The New York Times. 

"Uplifting. A journey into one man's heart." -- NY Journal of Books 

"CABIN belongs on your bookshelf, whether in the city or the country." -- Boston Book Bums.

"Two other cabin dwellers who wrote classic books - Henry David Thoreau and Louise Dickinson Rich - have a worthy successor in Lou Ureneck.  Like them, he took to the woods to live deliberately.  Like them, his cabin stands as a kind of metaphor for a life."     -- Chet Raymo

“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








About the Author

Lou Ureneck is a journalism professor at Boston University and a former newspaper editor at the Portland Press Herald in Maine and the Philadelphia Inquirer. His first book, Backcast: Fatherhood, Fly- fishing, and a River Journey Through the Heart of Alaska, received the 2007 National Outdoor Book Award. He lives in Boston and near Bethel, Maine.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 1st edition (September 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670022942
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670022946
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #821,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lou Ureneck teaches journalism at Boston University. A former Nieman fellow and editor in residence at Harvard University, Ureneck was a newspaper editor, in Maine and Philadelphia. He was born in New Brunswick, N.J.

His most recent book, "The Great Fire: One American's Mission to Rescue Victims of the 20th Century's First Genocide," tells the riveting story of a rescue operation led by a small-town minister from upstate New York. He saved more than a quarter-million people from the Ottoman city of Smyrna, the empire's richest city, and scene of the last terrifying episode of the genocide that killed millions of Armenians and Greeks at the beginning the last century. The story is both tragic and inspirational.

Ureneck's first book, "Backcast," won the National Outdoor Book Award for literary merit. His second book, Cabin, was about a cabin he built in the hills of western Maine. The book won him praise as a contemporary Thoreau.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Fred J. Field on September 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a really well written book.
Lou weaves a fascinating tapestry intertwining fibers of our human condition along with the primal need to bond with 'place.'
There is a simple elegance to his prose, "In a world that hadn't seemed entirely reliable or kind these past few years, the memories of the woods and waters of my boyhood were pleasurable, and the notion of the cabin, which I had been entertaining, seemed a natural next step extension of them."
Lou takes us along on his fascinating journey.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By D. Kallas on September 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
A few years ago, I started following Ureneck's Maine cabin blog after spotting an excerpt in the New York Times. From the comfort my home, I was able to vicariously enjoy as Ureneck followed a dream and endeavored to build a cabin in the Maine woods with the help of his brother. I looked forward to the arrival of his book to learn more from this adventure.
I was not disappointed,-- the book delivers the goods, and more.
There much to learn about the fundamentals of building the cabin and the Maine countryside. It is at times transcendant, as in Ureneck's descriptions of the Maine woods, and at times poignant, as in Ureneck's recounting of the rebuilding his relationship with his brother and his family.
Before beginning this venture, Ureneck admits that the loss of his mother and several other changes in his life had left him somewhat dispirited. Through his perserverence in staking out a place in the woods, Ureneck is able to offer an inspirational and practical remedy toward getting back on track.
It is a testament to the reinvigorating power of nature and the strength of family.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Given the book's subtitle, I expected it to be as much about the relationship between the author and his brother as between the author and his cabin and land. Not so. Ureneck remains self-absorbed throughout, even going so far as to avoid asking his brother what's wrong when the man is clearly troubled -- not just on one occasion, but day after day. (Ureneck justifies this by saying the cabin should be a place to escape troubles, not talk about them.) The author does mention his own personal problems, ones firmly in the past, but he passes over them quickly, whereas he goes on at length about the features and history of his land and its trees.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with a book whose aim is simply to speak lyrically about nature and the building of a cabin--and as other reviews indicate, Urenick does this fairly well. (I say "fairly well" instead of "well" because the author relies on certain words a little too often, and there are a few grammatical errors in the book that alter the intended meaning.) But as I've said, I expected this book to show how the building of a cabin affected a sibling relationship (just as Sarahlee Lawrence's memoir RIVER HOUSE shows how the building of a log home affects a father/daughter relationship), and I don't want others to be as blindsided as I was by CABIN's lack of emotional depth.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A K M on September 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
An absolutely wonderful book. Mr. Ureneck is truly skilled. "Cabin" is book that would appeal to anyone who has a desire to get back to basics and reconnect with what is important.

After following his New York Times blog "From the Ground Up", I anxiously awaited this book and felt as if I was standing with him on a cold New England morning as I strapped on my tool belt and prepared to do some good old fashioned manual labor. Sometimes what is hard on the hands is good for the soul.

America needs more books like this. Bravo.
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Format: Hardcover
Lou Ureneck is a journalism professor who has built a cabin in the Maine woods, in small but significant ways recalling Henry David Thoreau. His book is uplifting and informative, bringing us along on an inner journey towards a physical and metaphysical goal.

To begin to build the cabin took time --- his lifetime up to that point, especially the sorrows and loss of his accumulated experience, and the hope that remained for a worthwhile outcome. Following a divorce and the death of his mother, and a couple of cardiac incidents, Lou says, "The idea had taken hold of me that I needed nothing so much as a cabin in the woods."

The land was purchased, five acres with a pond, and the lumber had been accumulated, though it was old and warped. He tried to buy a collection of old-fashioned windows and ended up getting them for free. His plan morphed from a one-room sort of affair to something with two stories, a wing, a porch and a complex roofline.

The joy of creation came from working with his brother Paul and some of the younger men in their families. The book, as the subtitle suggests, is about the two brothers and how they interacted as they took on this shared task. For Lou, the cabin was an idyllic dream scene for writing and relaxing, and for Paul, it became an escape hatch when problems arose in his marriage. Utilizing their different kinds of energies became a dance that the two brothers did, with and around each other, with each new challenge.

As he built, Lou learned more about the local landscape and his neighbors. He had to get permission for a smaller driveway and in the process met the town councilors. When the foundation pillars were being dug, he got to know his land better: water-logged, requiring a pump to get the cement poured.
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