THE BIRDHOUSE CHRONICLES
Surviving the Joys of Country Life
North American Travel Journalists Association Award, Best Travel Book
Nominated for the Pushcart Editor’s Book Award
In The Birdhouse Chronicles, internationally bestselling author Cathleen Miller offers a funny and wise account of how she and her husband abandoned their San Francisco advertising careers to make a radical new life for themselves in a one-hundred-year-old Pennsylvania farmhouse located in the middle of an Amish cornpatch. Part memoir, part nature writing, and part old-house-restoration journal, this wonderfully humorous narrative brings home all the humor, exhilaration, and disappointment of pursuing a “simpler” life in the country. In her sassy, self-deprecating style, Cathleen Miller puts a fresh, authentic spin on the classic country memoir and surprises us with many unique twists. Sometimes wry, and sometimes full of awe, her observations about her neighbors and other locals infuse this true story with rich texture. Through it all we witness the blow-by-blow process as she and her husband refurbish their woefully dilapidated country house.
Praise for The Birdhouse Chronicles:
“If you can't slow down long enough to enjoy a book that gives an admirably realistic view of what your new, simpler, more meaningful life may be like, how will you survive the joys of country living once you get there?”
— The Wall Street Journal
“A light, breezy read, this chronicle of culture clashes and life changes keeps your attention to the bittersweet end.”
— Pittsburgh Magazine
“An absorbing account of their Pennsylvania sojourn.”
— The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Witty and observant.”
— The San Jose Mercury
Weary of urban life, essayist Cathleen Miller (Desert Flower) and her husband abandon San Francisco for an old house in rural Pennsylvania. In The Birdhouse Chronicles: Surviving the Joys of Country Life, Miller recounts the ensuing challenges, from keeping the wood-and-coal furnace stoked on frigid mornings, to burying the previous owner's shag carpeting, to staring down a wild mink. The move also dredges up memories of her childhood in small-town Missouri and her mother's suicide at 33, possibly triggered by the family's move from the country into town. Miller's musings are on the earnest side, but packed with vivid, textured details of country exile.
— Publishers Weekly
When they decided to leave their advertising-agency jobs in San Francisco, Miller and her husband moved to a century-old Pennsylvania farmhouse in the middle of Amish country. The transition was more difficult than they had imagined. Memoirs written by big-city folk who gave up the metropolitan hubbub for the simple, rustic pleasures of country life are a dime a dozen these days. Fortunately, the author avoids the usual pitfalls by injecting her prose with a gentle, poke-fun-at-myself sense of humor and by keeping the poetic, return-to-nature imagery to a bare minimum. All the usual stuff is here—the tribulations of moving in, the unforeseen obstacles of home renovation, the trauma of meeting the neighbors—but in Miller's hands, it all seems remarkably fresh. In many similar books, the people the authors meet seem almost like stock characters, made-up country folk designed to fill various stereotypes; here, the neighbors and townfolk seem simply like people. If you move to the country and feel compelled to write about it, let Miller be your guide.