ISEEM TO BE A BIT SHORT HERE ON YOUTH, SPOUSES, AND CHILDREN…but even with these differences in the facts of our lives, I loved the new memoir called “Made for You and Me” by 30-something wife and mother Caitlin Shetterly. Like my own story, it’s about finding one’s true home—which is not necessarily the place where everyone thinks you belong. Meet Caitlin, and win her book (or mine) in the process, perhaps.
Caitlin’s is a tale, as the cover subheadline says, of “Going West. Going Broke. Finding Home.” In March 2008, she and her then-newlywed husband, Dan, headed to their dream of life in Los Angeles, only to encounter something less, and more, than all the promise their fresh start together seemed to hold. The brutally frank, very personal tale—which has become more than just theirs but a universal and even political one in the wake of the recent recession that has washed over so many American dreams—was first told in a blog to friends and family that became a series of popular radio diaries on NPR’s “Weekend All Things Considered.”
There were other curveballs beyond the economy: An unexpected pregnancy at the start of their adventure left Caitlin too sick to work. A wearying, costly string of apartment mishaps, and the loss of a beloved pet in the process added to the drama. Eventually, the money and the Plan B’s (many of them) were exhausted, and there was a mother’s call from back home in Maine: You can come here and live with me.
Once again these 21st-century Joads packed all that remained of their possessions, minus one cat and plus one son, and crossed America in retreat.
“We felt bruised and tired, unsure of anything other than each other and our direction: home.
“We drove, stopped, nursed, changed a diaper, drove, stopped, nursed. We were crawling across the country, our car teetering with stuff…”
And then: arrival, and a first night of rest in her former childhood bed, which was too small to fit her husband alongside her. Dan was relegated to a mattress in a loft nearby, the latest compromise of their compromised dream.
“In the dark, I lay there. I was home. I had made an epic—to my life—journey across America in 11 days. I had lost my cat. I had a child. My husband and dog were still with me. I was at my mother’s, where I had never wanted to end up for more than a visit. I had no idea how long we’d be there. I was tired. I was anxious. I was grateful. What had happened to us? It was almost too much to grasp. My new life as I knew it had collapsed and something else was beginning. I just had no idea what it was, or if I’d even recognize what was before me as my life.”
It was back in her home of origin that Caitlin heard her mother’s invocation to each evening (“I love this evening”) or day (“I love this day”), and though such utterances seemed vaguely irritating considering all that was going on, they served eventually to soften, to guide, and helped the surrender. The laughter returned…and you will have to read “Made for You and Me” (enter below to win one of two copies I bought to share) or Caitlin’s blog, to see where, and what, Caitlin and Dan and their son call home today, and how they are doing.
Aside: Perhaps the very best, and quite unexpected, part about writing a book is meeting other authors. I met Caitlin through her literary agent, with whom I was on a panel recently, and who afterward emailed me to say, “I have an author whose work you may like.” With that introduction, I got more than a galley of a good read: I got to correspond with another new author who, like myself, was running from hither to yon doing appearances, having a hard time with exhaustion and wondering what it would all add up to.
I met a woman who in her new life has become, as I have, quite the hippie-style home economist: learning to feed herself well but thriftily, wasting nothing, enjoying the process. And I met a woman who, because she almost accidentally started a blog in 2008 within days of when I did, is surrounded with readers who say things like this to her:
“God bless you for making it home.”
How to Win Caitlin’s, and My, Books
IHAVE 2 COPIES of Caitlin’s “Made for You And Me” that I bought to give away; Caitlin bought two copies of my “And I Shall Have Some Peace There” to share on her site. Simply comment below, answering the question:
How have you found home—and what does home mean to you?
Then go do the same thing over at Caitlin’s. We’ll each draw two winners after entries close on Sunday, March 27, at midnight. Remember: You double your chances by commenting on both blogs, even if you simply cut and paste your same comment to both spots.
Now you know me: I understand some of you are shy and just want to say, “Count me in,” or “I want to win” in the comments. That’s fine—but it’s even better if you talk a little about the notion of home. Good luck in the drawing!
Note: Federal regulations require that I say that goods purchased from any links to Amazon here net me a small commission (which I use to buy books for giveaways like this).