Perhaps David Lee Roth said it best: “Found out the simple life ain’t so simple.” To bring it off successfully requires, for most people, a philosophical transformation as well as a wealth of acquired know-how. This book is a paean to the joys, struggles and potential pitfalls of the simplifying process as well as a how-to manual full of practical advice. Its authors are neither ideological gurus nor ascetics, but rather a likable and creative couple who decided to give living for the present a try.
Wanda Urbanska and Frank Levering had as good a shot at L.A.’s (and most of America’s) vision of success and happiness as anyone: He was a screenwriter who’d had a film produced, and she was an editor at a major newspaper. This story begins when Levering’s Quaker family’s heavily indebted apple orchard (in southwestern Virginia, 12 miles north of the original Mayberry, R.F.D.) is finally facing collapse, and his father’s health seems in peril. The authors admit they are “secretly and utterly miserable with our own lives,” and make the decision to quit the life they know and the dreams of glamor and material splendor they have nurtured since college.
The book chronicles the most difficult struggle they faced: to recast their dreams, to find joy in hard work and the beauty of everyday life close to nature, neighbors and community, rather than hoping that the deferred fulfillment of the rat race and “making things happen” would someday pay off. They take the reader through their painful, humorous and ultimately successful transition, along the way introducing others who have made it, from a lesbian couple living outside the cash economy to the co-founders of Habitat for Humanity, who gave away their hard-earned millions and devoted their lives to building affordable housing in poor neighborhoods.
Paperback: 272 pages