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Atchafalaya Houseboat: My Years in the Louisiana Swamp Hardcover – April 24, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
In the late 1970s, Roland and Calvin Voisin made a decision to live a pleasantly isolated life: they constructed a houseboat in Louisiana's Atchafalaya River Basin Swamp, caught their own food and made money by trading and welding. Roland and Voisin revel in their isolation, and the joy Roland takes in retelling her experiences is evident on every page. The book is enhanced by nature photographer C.C. Lockwood's photographs, which depict the couple going about their daily houseboat business (and were published in National Geographic). Roland's writing, most of which was done at the time, is highly accessible if at times disjointed. It's hard to discern an exact sequence of events, and certain things seem to happen out of nowhere, like when Roland leaves Voisin for another man, whom she marries. The end of the book, in which Roland discusses her fascination with organic gardening pioneer Robert Rodale and sketches her life today, makes for a less than satisfying ending to an otherwise intriguing look at a disappearing way of life. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Gwen Roland, former editor for the Southern Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, continues to write about agriculture and self-sufficient lifestyles from her homestead in Georgia.
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I say it was a priviledged time to be living out there on the swamp because no one lives there now. Those days are over and there's no going back, thanks to modern developments.
Anyhow, the author doesn't tell us why she chose to live with a man she didn't fall in love with and she usually refers to him as "the Beard," not by name. His name is Calvin, and there was no heavy romance or chemistry between the two of them. Or if there was a hot romance, she was discreet about it to a point of secrecy. It's funny how despite all the natural wonder those two individuals shared on the swamp, witnessing some of God's most beautiful spectacles of nature, they never married.
I'm sure they lived like man and wife, but Ms Roland deferred on those details.
She also left alot of details out that I would have loved to read about. For instance, what did they eat on a daily basis and what were some of her favorite swamp recipes? How does one eat gator meat,for example? I would like to know some recipes of hers that she resorted to while living upon a houseboat in the middle of marsh gas and silently swimming gators and other swamp critters.
The story is spartan, yet very interesting and she has a beautiful prose to read.
I am inspired to read Ms Rolands poetic proses; here's one sample for you:
"Right on cue the Big Dipper appears full grown and diamond bright, looking for all the world like it's pouring the Atchafalaya River from it's bowl."
The reader can picture the two swampers laying lazily on a chair of their slowly drifting swamp boat, gazing skywards and witnessing the beauty of the celestial bodies as the world silently rotates on its axis, the Earth gathering inky blackness as the night sky goes dark.
I loved reading this tiny little book and I slowed my rate of reading so that I would NOT be done with it within a day. I wanted to slow it down, savor every tiny morsel of Ms Rolands' writings and visualize in my mind the type of rare lifestyle the two of them were enjoying - day to day.
I wished the book to go longer....that's what happens when a person stumble upons a quality writer; the reader has one request and that request is "MORE!"
Can I please have some more?
It's interesting to note that Ms Roland and her Houseboat Hubby lived in the swamp for 8 amazing years and then one day, it was over.
She spared us the details of the day she left the old barge they lived on - a barge built for two.
She went on to marry another man - and vaguely I recall she telling the tale on briefest terms - how she met and fell in love with this RiverBoat Man and remains married to him to this day.
I would have liked to read the personal dilemmas swirling about in young Ms Rolands' mind at the time of her split from Calvin and her flight towards the RiverBoat Man. She is a very intelligent and educated woman and I enjoyed reading her disciplined words.
Ms Roland opened up another story - the story of why it was more important to see the world - and NOT continue with her PhD. She says that living life on the swamp taught her more valuable lessons that if she were to plant her bottom behind a desk for the next few years; earning her PhD. Sometimes life is funner and more important outside of the classroom. This is a lesson that I won from reading this book.
It was an incidental lesson but I really don't want to go back to the university to start working on my Master's Degree - so this book has given me an excuse to NOT pursue it. Whew* And to think I was getting ready to start that boring journey - NO! Thanks to Ms Roland, I shall instead live my life and enjoy more time at the beach, where I really love to be witness to it's profound natural beauty and 100 shades of brilliant blue.
The author does still keep in touch with Calvin, her old Swamp Mate from years gone past.
They're still on friendly terms and why wouldn't they be?
Get this book and enjoy a completely different way of life on da Bayou!!!
Whether you ever go to South Louisiana or not, this is an interesting read.
Gwen writes with a very easy flowing format and keeps you interested and turning the pages.
I dont think life like this could be had in this day in age, but it was fun to dream and re-live it through her words
Great book and very fun to read. I've already recommended it to numerous friends
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