Thanks to Cori MacNaughton for this new review in the Examiner!
“Twelve by Twelve” by William Powers – Troubling and Inspiring at Once, By Cori MacNaughton, Tampa Bay Examiner
I picked up this book on an impulse, when the book store we visited had none of the permaculture books for which I was looking.
I was intrigued by the subtitle: “A One-room Cabin off the Grid & Beyond the American Dream,” but when I read the back cover review, calling it a “Walden for the Global Warming Era,” I was skeptical in the extreme; Walden has long been a favorite of mine, and not only for Thoreau’s generous and accurate description of the noble character of the Newfoundland dog. Still, there was something about it that called to me, and I found myself unable to re-shelve the book.
I was not disappointed. “Twelve by Twelve” is a lyrical and poetic take on the worst that we have done to the earth as a species, the sometimes despicable ways in which we treat one another; the myriad of often blindingly simple ways in which solutions can be found and implemented for the benefit of all. The title refers to a one-room cabin, literally twelve feet by twelve feet in dimension, owned by a skilled but rather eccentric doctor, who chose simplicity and political activism over material wealth and creature comfort. When the doctor offers the author the use of her cabin for an extended period, his experiences therein leave him – and us as readers – profoundly changed.
It is, at once, an enchanting portrait of the interesting and intriguing doctor; her spare and yet somehow spacious cabin and thriving permaculture garden; her assortment of resilient and quirky neighbors and the relationships the author manages to build with them all; and a deeply personal and unflinchingly honest spiritual and emotional journey on the part of the author, as he observes his feelings while in the cabin ranging from profound joy, deep depression, and everything in between. And, in examining and questioning his own deepest motivations, he throws additional light and insight into my own.
Powers is a skilled writer, with a gentle yet determined and often self-deprecatingly humorous voice, along with keen and insightful observations on the wonders and foibles of humankind and what it is that makes us so. His narrative takes us from the tiny North Carolina cabin and its environs, to Africa and the Bolivian rainforest. He is so full of profound yet simple truths as to be of value everywhere.
Troubling and inspiring at once, this is a wonderful and quick read, which will both move and inform you, and leave you truly caring about what happens to the author and those of whom he writes.
Rarely has an impulse purchase offered so much.