When Eleanor Agnew, her husband, and two young children moved to the Maine woods in 1975, the back-to-the-land movement had already attracted untold numbers of converts who had grown increasingly estranged from mainstream American society. Visionaries by the millions were moving into woods, mountains, orchards, and farmlands in order to disconnect from the supposedly deleterious influences of modern life. Fed up with capitalism, TV, Washington politics, and 9-to-5 jobs, they took up residence in log cabins, A-frames, tents, old schoolhouses, and run-down farmhouses; grew their own crops; hauled water from wells; avoided doctors in favour of natural cures; and renounced energy-guzzling appliances. This is their story, in all its glories and agonies, its triumphs and disasters (many of them richly amusing), told by a woman who experienced the simple life firsthand but has also read widely and interviewed scores of people who went back to the land. Ms Agnew tells how they found joy and camaraderie, studied their issues of Mother Earth News, coped with frozen laundry and grinding poverty, and persevered or gave up. Most of them, it turns out, came back from freedom and self-sufficiency, either by returning to urban life or by dressing up their primitive rural existence – but they held onto the values they gained during their back-to-the-land experience. Back from the Land is filled with juicy details and inspired by a naïve idealism, but the attraction of the life it describes is undeniable. Here is a book to delight those who remember how it was, those who still kick themselves for not taking the chance, and those of a new generation who are just now thinking about it.
Eleanor Agnew received her PhD from Louisiana State University. She has also written My Mama's Waltz, a book for which she appeared on Oprah. Ms Agnew is the literacy coordinator for the Savannah-Chatham County Public School system. She is married with three sons and lives in Savannah, Georgia.
"Interesting for anyone who has fantasized about country life."
– Baltimore City Paper
"Back from the Land [...] details these visionaries and their movement [...] Provides an excellent survey."
– Midwest Book Review
"Agnew offers a balanced, critical view that conveys both the profound rewards as well as the stresses that the 'simple life' brought."
"Eleanor Agnew's lovely memoir of this movement of primal innocence is at once honest and hilarious [...] She recaptures the period with unerring skill."
– Christopher Hitchens, The New York Times
"If you've ever indulged fantasies of [...] living off the land, Agnew's new book [...] might make you regain an appreciation for your Maytag."
– E, The Environmental Magazine
"Agnew [...] understands these well-meaning people, and never patronizes them [...] Charmingly told."
– Jim Motavalli, Dragonfly Review
"A valuable personal and historical pilgrimage through one of US society's countercultures [...] For nostalgic reading as well as for the scholarship of culture."
– J. H. Smith, Choice
"A balanced, perceptive portrait of the [back-to-the-land] movement."
– Leonard Quart, Berkshire Eagle
"Agnew has managed to recreate a compelling chapter of American history."
– Christine Mangan, Whole Life Review
"Her work reflects her gift for storytelling [...] a compelling read."
– Encyclopedia Of Chicago
"In Back from the Land, Eleanor Agnew weaves together an intriguing mix of her own first-person experiences and those of like-minded idealists [...] Its value resides in its insights into the painful struggles individuals and families are forced to go through as they attempt to break away from the materialism of a consumer society in order to leave a lighter, sustainable, footprint on this earth."
– Jeffrey Jacob, University of Calgary, author of New Pioneers
"Eleanor Agnew has captured the excitement and idealism of the back-to-the-landers of the 1970s and has followed their countercultural dream full cycle [...] Agnew's mixing of her personal history with the stories of others gives this book extraordinary warmth and vitality."
– Tim Miller, Department of Religious Studies, University of Kansas
"Informative account [...] intriguing [...] Some of the best writing is from Agnew's own memories."
– Publishers Weekly