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Extended Audio Sample This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone, by Melissa Coleman Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,321 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Melissa Coleman Narrator: Melissa Coleman Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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In the fall of 1968, Melissa Coleman’s parents, Eliot and Sue, a handsome, idealistic young couple from well-to-do families, pack a few essentials into their VW truck and abandon the complications of modern reality to carve a farm from the woods. They move to a remote peninsula on the coast of Maine and become disciples of Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of the homesteading bible Living the Good Life. On sixty acres of sandy, intractable land, Eliot and Sue begin to forge a new existence, subsisting on the crops they grow and building a home with their own hands.

While they establish a happy family and achieve their visionary goals, the pursuit of a purer, simpler life comes at a price. Winters are long and lean, summers frenetic with the work of the harvest, and the distraction of the many young farm apprentices threatens the Colemans’ marriage. Then, one summer day when Melissa is seven, her three-year-old sister, Heidi, wanders off and drowns in the pond where she liked to play. In the wake of the accident, ideals give way to human frailty, divorce, and a mother’s breakdown, and ultimately young Melissa is abandoned to the care of neighbors. What really happened, and who, if anyone, is to blame?

This Life Is in Your Hands is the search to understand a complicated past; a true story, both tragic and redemptive, it tells of the quest to make a good life, the role of fate, and the power of forgiveness.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Intense readability…haunting power…as well as lush, vivid atmosphere that is alluring in its own right. [A] story so nuanced that it would be a disservice to reveal what was in store. If you want to know what happened, read it for yourself.”  

    New York Times

  • “Combine the sincerity of Walden with the poignancy of The Glass Castle, add dashes of the lush prose found in The Botany of Desire, and you get This Life Is in Your Hands…I was engaged and deeply moved by this evocative tale of Paradise found then lost.” 

    Wally Lamb, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Rendered with sublimity…[Coleman] fluently describes the power of the natural world, familial love and heartbreak, grace after loss.”  

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Coleman’s moving recounting never loses hope of redemption.” 


  • “A fascinating look at the roots of the organic movement as well as a cautionary tale about the limits of idealism and the importance of forgiveness.”  

    Washington Post 

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • Selected for the May 2011 Indie Next List

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Molly | 2/6/2014

    " This was a heartbreaking and lovely book that I definitely enjoyed reading. When I first started it I was a bit thrown off by the author's writing style (writing about her parents' life prior to her birth as though she was right there with them), but once she got into the meat of the story and her own personal memories I enjoyed it a lot more. I found the strength of this book to be, sadly, the author's empathetic ability to portray her parents' fall from love. She never took sides and rarely inserted her own feelings on the matter, and such objectivity made it all the more heartfelt. Overall, this is a well written depiction of life in rural Maine in the 1970's, complete with hippies, hicks, organic agriculture facts, delightful anecdotes, and eventually the realization that this idyllic lifestyle is not always sustainable. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Courtney | 1/12/2014

    " Love books about the Back to the Land movement. Have read everything about the Nearings and lots about Eliot Coleman. It was an interesting perspective to read about the movement from a child's point of view. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Hank Stuever | 1/6/2014

    " The writing is tone-perfect but I had an issue with the structure. Knowing about the sister right away (including jacket copy) made it less interesting from the start. Three stars for effort but also take it with a grain of salt: I didn't finish the book. I can see why many others have enjoyed it, especially the domestic details of a family that decided to go off the grid. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Erika | 12/29/2013

    " This is an engaging and thought-provoking memoir of a childhood on a back-to-the-earth homestead of the 1970s. "

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About the Author

Melissa Coleman has covered lifestyle, health, and travel as a freelance writer. She lives in Freeport, Maine, with her husband and twin daughters.