“An in-depth and compelling account of diverse Americans living off the grid.” —Los Angeles Times
The radical search for the simple life in today’s America.
On a frigid April night, a classically trained opera singer, five months pregnant, and her husband, a former marine biologist, disembark an Amtrak train in La Plata, Missouri, assemble two bikes, and pedal off into the night, bound for a homestead they've purchased, sight unseen. Meanwhile, a horticulturist, heir to the Great Migration that brought masses of African Americans to Detroit, and her husband, a product of the white flight from it, have turned to urban farming to revitalize the blighted city they both love. And near Missoula, Montana, a couple who have been at the forefront of organic farming for decades navigate what it means to live and raise a family ethically.
A work of immersive journalism steeped in a distinctively American social history and sparked by a personal quest, The Unsettlers traces the search for the simple life through the stories of these new pioneers and what inspired each of them to look for -- or create -- a better existence. Captivating and clear-eyed, it dares us to imagine what a sustainable, ethical, authentic future might actually look like.
Sundeen (The Man Who Quit Money) embarks on a cross-country journey to find others invested in living a simpler life, and to discover how he and his wife, Cedar, can get closer to that experience. Sundeen visits three couples: Ethan and Sarah in La Plata, Mo.; Greg and Olivia in Detroit; and Steve and Luci in Victor, Mont. All of them have made a serious commitment to sustainable living; some live without electricity, and others grow food for themselves and their neighbors. The book suffers from a tone that veers into preachiness, and though Sundeen raises questions of privilege, his treatment of it is superficial. In Detroit, the book is at its most engaging. The work that Greg and Olivia put into their farm is arduous, but the way they talk about their work is less self-righteous than the other couples. Sundeen does ask important questions about technology, the economy, and the moral implications of being both critic and participant in our society. Still, readers will be left wondering what large-scale simple living might look like.