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432 of 479 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What Gilbert neglects to tell you: Eustace's dark side is darker...., November 3, 2008
This review is from: The Last American Man (Paperback)
While Gilbert's book is well written and she doesn't appear to pull her punches in criticizing Eustace Conway's flaws, the truth is that she has still left out important facts which show Conway's incredible hypocrisy. Anyone who has actually worked for the man (as I have) can tell you that the man seen by guests and the man seen by employees are totally different. The man does not practice what he preaches, and Gilbert's description of his interns' disillusionment hardly scratches the surface.

Eustace Conway is largely a fraud. While he may have practiced a low-impact, back-to-nature way of life as a teen (although when he drinks, Eustace admits many things that contradict this), Turtle Island today reflects very little of that. It is a non-productive "farm" covered by half-built cabins and strewn with rusty old cars and trailers (all exposed to the weather and leaking oil, coolant, etc. onto the soil). On any given day, you are more likely to hear the din of heavy deisel trucks and tractors, gas generators, electric power tools, chainsaws, and motorcycles than you are the natural sounds of the forest.

Here are some things Gilbert neglects to tell the reader:

--Livestock routinely die from neglect at TI. I watched one goat and her kid die from a bacterial infection, despite the intern's repeated warnings to Eustace of its condition. A former volunteer told me that he saw 3 other goats die in a similar manner during the previous months.

--Turtle Island DOES NOT produce most of its food. The majority comes from the neighbors' donations and farmer's markets. His vegetable gardens are usually so overgrown and neglected that it is difficult to tell what is food and what is not. (interns are not allowed to work on them except on their "off" days, and are routinely called away to do other jobs, such as road building and automobile maintenance)

--only 1 building--a small shack hardly tall enough to stand up in--was built without power tools. Every other building on Turtle Island has been built using chain saws, chop saws, nail guns, etc. Interns have to BEG to do things with primitive tools, because Eustace feels it takes too much time.

--Eustace treats the wood of his house and truck beds by painting them with a mixture of diesel and motor oil without any attempt to keep it from leaching into the soil.

--Interns spend the majority of their time fixing cars or building his new house as free labor, NOT learning primitive/sustainable living skills.

--Interns are seldom allowed to use simple tools, because Eustace feels they waste too much time. Any "primitive" living must be done on their own time. Eustace apparently doesn't even know how to properly sharpen a traditional cross-cut saw, because when a former volunteer asked him to teach the skill, Eustace gave up after a feeble attempt ant told him he should get a book on the subject.

--Horses are hardly used for anything other than buggy rides for tourists and occasionally plowing fields. They are show pieces. Eustace travels around on a motorcycle, and interns are expected to use 4x4 trucks, rather than walk.

--Eustace owns and regularly operates bulldozers, backhoes, and industrial-size dump trucks to clear forest for roads, buildings, and anything else he can think of.

--Eustace's home is surrounded by rusting trucks, cars, horse trailers, etc., most of which do not run or function at all. I counted 60 cars, not to mention the numerous trailers strewn throughout the surrounding forest. Piles of car batteries sit exposed and leaking in the forest amongst the cars behind the house.

Worst of all, INTERNS ARE EXPECTED TO LIE TO THE PUBLIC about these things in order to keep the illusion of "primitive living" at Turtle Island.
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Tracked by 8 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 30 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 2, 2010 10:33:44 AM PST
Chris Wilson says:
I have read your sporadic reviews and all of them are rather mean-spirited, one of which you title "broken bones are not erotic, you morons." And yet another, "obnoxious jerk is as bad as any telemarketer."

You sound young, angry and more than a little bitter. You very much sound like one of the many interns Gilbert spoke of in this book who attend Conway's commune hoping to find a father figure, then later, after feeling rejected, leave with bitter emotions. Gilbert notes these occurences in her book. You appear to be an example of that. Did you write the other "angry" reviews prior to visiting Conway or after?

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 5, 2010 9:54:56 AM PST
C. L. Baron says:
I am perplexed by the post and wish perhaps Gilbert would respond to it. Regardless of how one feels about the writer of this extremely negative review, it is still filled with specifics which would be very easy to prove or disprove.

Posted on May 19, 2010 6:33:45 PM PDT
S says:
I also "interned" at Turtle Island and can confirm that everything this commenter says is basically true. The "farm" is a hot mess and is just a showpiece for the summer camp. I had to help drag a horse carcass out of a field after Eustace left it tethered there for days next to a riverbed and it hung itself trying to get a drink. The neighbor farms regularly complained of animal neglect.

Everything about the power tools and 4x4s is on point too. I remember Eustace looking at me like I was crazy when I said I wanted to walk somewhere instead of drive. He bought his backhoe when I was there. It baffled me. The guy talks a good game about conservation and is the biggest penny-pincher I ever met, yet he goes out and spends $27K on a backhoe when I was there.

You ate food from a farmer's market? I wish. Eustace fed me rotting fruit, meat from grocery store dumpsters, unpasteurized (or even boiled) goat milk, and whatever donations were (luckily) dropped off by his enablers (he calls supporters). I worked 10-12 hour days, 6 days a week. My "day off" was a few hours I had free between morning and night feeding 1 day a week. Interns were one step above how he treated horses.

I read a copy of the book before it was published and I have to say that I wasn't impressed. Not only was a mostly fiction from the mind of Eustace, I thought it jumped around too much and wasn't that interesting. I would have put it down without finishing had I not been personally involved.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 27, 2010 2:05:15 PM PDT
Reen says:
Thanks for adding to the voice of truth here! At least you "interns" could walk away, the poor animals can't. Peace be with you.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 7, 2010 7:41:34 AM PDT
Of all the horrible things I read here this makes me so sad and angry, " I had to help drag a horse carcass out of a field after Eustace left it tethered there for days next to a riverbed and it hung itself trying to get a drink. The neighbor farms regularly complained of animal neglect. "

A horse hanging himself to get a drink is evidence of extreme animal cruelty. How can this and everything else described here go on?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2010 6:18:04 AM PDT
You are right to ask the question "how can this and everything else...go on?" The horse, who's name was Bonnie, did not die of strangulation trying to get a drink. Bonnie died of a disease that caused her to suffer progressive paralysis. Eustace used his new backhoe to move Bonnie to a creek where she could drink. Though I don't know the content of the conversations Eustace had with the vet, I do know that he tried everything to save her. In the end he used the backhoe to try to keep Bonnie moving and in the last hours of her life to make her comfortable.

There are contradictions at Turtle Island and the vision for the property has changed over the years. But many people come to Turtle Island for camp and school programs and learn primitive skills and develop a new appreciation for our Appalachian heritage. That Eustace has served and educated so many people with as few changes to the land is an impressive accomplishment.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 20, 2010 3:37:11 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Aug 20, 2010 3:37:41 AM PDT]

Posted on Jul 2, 2011 12:00:36 PM PDT
I refuse to order the book or visit him in Boone now he is a fraud!

Posted on Aug 11, 2012 10:51:09 AM PDT
Since Eustace is one of three persons featured on the History channel's "Mountain Men" so-called "reality TV" series, Mr. Conway has shown himself to be an even bigger fraud than this review states. In one episode he pretends to pull a legal notice from his mail box, (actually dated 2006) which he claims to be a lien of $85,000 on his land. He claims his only source of income is cutting and selling firewood, lives on less than $2,000 per year, can never pay $85,000 but still must make an emergency horseback ride to the courthouse to beat some deadline to save his land. All obviously phony, a fictional tale made up by Eustace himself, lights, camera, action starring Eustace Conway in person and all scripted to get donations from viewers who believe the con man and will contribute money.

Posted on Sep 15, 2012 11:32:43 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 15, 2012 2:56:00 PM PDT
J. Nathe says:
The Last American Man....I feel I was misled on this book. First of all she picked a picture to make him look like a good looking guy (which he isn't) and made him out to be romantic with all these beautiful girlfriends (which I doubt) and she basically made a story about his life to be like a modern day "Davy Crockett". However looking on his website in Boone he appears to be just a long haired bearded guy living in the woods making $$ off of people. He is just a fraud and I am dissapointed that Gilbert wrote about him to self promote herself. I won't be buying any more of her books again.
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