Inspired by his From the Ground Up New York Times blog, a beautifully written memoir about building and brotherhood.
Confronted with the disappointments and knockdowns that can come in middle age-job loss, the death of his mother, a health scare, a divorce-Lou Ureneck needed a project that would engage the better part of him and put him back in life's good graces. City-bound for a decade, Lou decided he needed to build a simple post-and-beam cabin in the woods. He bought five acres in the hills of western Maine and asked his younger brother, Paul, to help him.
Twenty years earlier the brothers had built a house together. Now Lou saw working with Paul as a way to reconnect with their shared history and to rediscover his truest self. As the brothers-with the help of Paul's sons-undertake the challenging construction, nothing seems to go according to plan. But as they raise the cabin, Ureneck eloquently reveals his own evolving insights into the richness and complexity of family relationships, the healing power of nature, and the need to root oneself in a place one can call home. With its exploration of the satisfaction of building and of physical labor, Cabin will also appeal to readers of Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Matthew Crawford's Shop Class as Soulcraft, and Tracy Kidder's House.
Ureneck is no stranger to the outdoors: his first book, Backcast: Fatherhood, Flyfishing and a River Journey Through the Heart of Alaska, was a satisfying and illuminating look at the connections between internal and external landscapes. This follow-up is a continuation of Ureneck's personal journey that will thoroughly satisfy fans of his earlier work. Following a job loss, a divorce, his mother's death, and other bouts of "coming to terms with being the generation within the family that stood between the children and death," Ureneck decides to build a cabin on a piece of "rugged Maine hillside" and make it "my own in the way that the landscape of my boyhood had been my own." Enlisting his brother Paul, an experienced builder, to help with the construction, Ureneck spends two seasons building his simple cabin, and his detailed, almost day-by-day account of that time deftly combines the physical ("Post and beam carpentry owns a vocabulary every bit as rich and arcane as that of nineteenth-century seamanship"), the philosophical ("Has the departure of nature from our lives impaired our ability to make moral decisions?"), and the familial ("When you get around to reassembling your life... it's good to have someone at your side who remembers how the parts once fit together.