Monday, December 6, 2010

River House by Sarahlee Lawrence

River House is a captivating memoir. How many people grow up in an area and realize after leaving that what they want is to establish roots where they grew up?

Sarahlee grows up in Central Oregon on her parent's ranch, a ranch that is loved by her mother and barely tolerated by her father.

Her dream, when she's in college, is to travel and to explore her passion--running the rivers of the world. She receives a fellowship after college and sets off for some of the most difficult rivers.

While she's in Peru and the Tambopata River she reads Thoreau's
Walden and instantly feels that tug to return to Oregon. She recalls the log home her parents built and wants, with her father's help, to build a log home.

Along with her father who assists, but does not take control, they complete the foundation. Reading the many passages of notching logs, setting logs in place, working in freezing winter temperatures, I felt as if I was looking over their shoulders. I could even hear the chain saw!

Their working together brings out the conflicts her father has with his time on the ranch. While he's lived in the same place for twenty-eight years he's an isolate and has no ties with the other ranch owners or farmers and now he's tired of the work and the cold.

His passion has always been surfing and every year he manages at least one trip to the ocean, but that's no longer sufficient. He's burnt out and his lifelong reliance on marijuana has altered his personality. The only thing he wants is to leave and go live in Mexico where he can surf, play the guitar and smoke pot.

Sarahlee doesn't immediately settle down. She returns to the academic world for an advanced degree and continues running rivers. Each year she returns to the land and to the people

Over the next decade the house is completed and she returns to farm the land. Her father had left years ago for Mexico, but her mother remains on the land.

This is a memoir that isn't afraid to deal with some difficult memories and many ecstatic moments.

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