The hilarious, charming, and candid story of writer Christopher Ingraham’s decision to uproot his life and move his family to Red Lake Falls, Minnesota, population 1,400—the community he made famous as “the worst place to live in America” in a story he wrote for the Washington Post.
Like so many young American couples, Chris Ingraham and his wife Briana were having a difficult time making ends meet as they tried to raise their twin boys in the East Coast suburbs. One day, Chris – in his role as a “data guy” reporter at the Washington Post – stumbled on a study that would change his life. It was a ranking of America’s 3,000+ counties from ugliest to most scenic. He quickly scrolled to the bottom of the list and gleefully wrote the words “The absolute worst place to live in America is (drumroll please) … Red Lake County, Minn.” The story went viral, to put it mildly.
Among the reactions were many from residents of Red Lake County. While they were unflappably polite – it’s not called “Minnesota Nice” for nothing – they challenged him to look beyond the spreadsheet and actually visit their community. Ingraham, with slight trepidation, accepted. Impressed by the locals’ warmth, humor and hospitality – and ever more aware of his financial situation and torturous commute – Chris and Briana eventually decided to relocate to the town he’d just dragged through the dirt on the Internet.
If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Now is the story of making a decision that turns all your preconceptions – good and bad -- on their heads. In Red Lake County, Ingraham experiences the intensity and power of small-town gossip, struggles to find a decent cup of coffee, suffers through winters with temperatures dropping to forty below zero, and unearths some truths about small-town life that the coastal media usually miss. It’s a wry and charming tale – with data! -- of what happened to one family brave enough to move waaaay beyond its comfort zone
With humor and insight, Washington Post reporter Ingraham writes of relocating his family from Washington, D.C., to rural Minnesota. In 2015, Ingraham wrote a story that went viral about "the worst place to live in America," based on a USDA study Minnesota's Red Lake County (which has no lakes). His charming book, though, is not about infuriating the people of Red Lake Falls who immediately welcomed his family but how a trip there awakened a desire to get his family out of their cramped Baltimore house and away from miserable commutes. Ingraham's account of this somewhat spontaneous relocation (the paper allowed Ingraham, who reports on data, to work remotely) to the frozen prairie is nuanced, leavened with tongue-in-cheek infographics and thoughtful ruminations on place. He jabs at his fellow coastal reporters (who "mistake local quirks for cultural divides") and plays for fish-out-of-water laughs when killing his first deer or discovering "Minnesota pizza is universally bad." But he avoids Northern Exposure type pandering and zeroes in on the appeal of "a quiet working-class normalcy" in a town whose residents view Minneapolis as a "far-off urban hellscape." This unpredictable look at the intimacy to be found in rural regions will enchant urban dwellers.