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Review: See You in A Hundred Years: Four Seasons in Forgotten America

October 6, 2008

Have you ever felt so stressed out that you wished for simpler times?  That’s exactly how Logan and Heather Ward felt.  They were living in New York with their baby – Logan was a writer and Heather worked for a justice-reform think tank.  They felt like they worked all the time, but were so stressed they never had time to enjoy anything.  They decided to embark on a year long experiment and live like Americans did in 1900.

They decided that “If it didn’t exist in 1900, we will do without. And that means we’re not going to have e-mail, phone, computer, credit cards, utility bills, or car insurance.”

The Wards sold their apartment in New York and bought a farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  They had the electricity and water cut off and installed an outhouse and a wood cookstove.  They bought goats for milk, a horse for transportation and seeds to plant.  They did keep a phone in case of emergency, but kept it unplugged.

Heather Ward at their wood cookstove

Heather Ward at their wood cookstove

See You in A Hundred Years: Four Seasons in Forgotten America is Logan Ward‘s account of their year.  It is published by BenBella Books.  Logan is brutally honest in his account.  At the beginning things were very difficult and the relationship between Logan and Heather was strained.  As the year progressed, they became more confident and more adept at the challenges they faced.  The Wards made a lot of friends and developed a real sense of community.

Neighbors came to tell the Wards about the attack on the World Trade Center and Logan’s reaction was “Over the past few months, I have been calmed by the lack of twenty-first-century distractions and humbled by the power of nature.  Like the weather, the terrorist attacks were beyond my control.  All I can do is cling to the simple assurance of daily chores.”

This is a fascinating, well written book and I thorougly enjoyed it.  It certainly gave me some things to think about.  I found this article about their experiment.  In it, Logan said the five things they missed the most were the kitchen sink, washing machine, music, a good pencil sharpener and sandals.  The five things they didn’t miss at all were the refrigerator, television, telephone, daily news and processed food.  Somehow, I think my lists would be different.

25 Comments leave one →
  1. October 6, 2008 11:23 am

    Wow, what a fascinating story! I’m not even sure I’d last a day living like that, it’s so hard to imagine! What would you miss most? I think I’d miss the internet/telephone and the lack of means to communicate with others. Although the daily news is often bleak, I think it might also be incredibly frustrating not knowing what was happening in the world. But, I guess you never know!

  2. October 6, 2008 1:30 pm

    This sounds like an interesting book. I don’t know that I would want to live for a whole year without modern luxuries, but I did go on vacation for 1 week in a place without electricity or running water – I read books, took sunshowers, used candles for light. It is one of my favorite memories.

  3. October 6, 2008 1:45 pm

    All I can say is “Wow”.

    Last year, during the California wildfires were without power for 5 days. I was highly irritated over all of it at first, but by day 5 I had adapted and surprisingly, so had my kids! No TV so we told stories by candlelight, made shadow puppets and laughed our heads off.

    I sometimes wish (okay, I often wish) that I could lead a less complicated life. Is it even possible??

  4. October 6, 2008 1:58 pm

    That is an interesting story! I can’t even imagine! Thank you for the great review, Kathy.

  5. October 6, 2008 1:59 pm

    I heard alot about this book. It sounds really good. I personally don’t think I could do what they did. I am to addicted to modern technology. Great review! This is on my TBR list

  6. October 6, 2008 2:09 pm

    Ok, I’m a broken record here, but Wow! How interesting. Have you seen any of the PBS specials that deal with similar subjects? Frontier House, and Federal House are two that come to mind. Anyway, I’m going to have put this on my list of books to check out.

  7. October 6, 2008 3:06 pm

    This sounds like a wonderful book! I also thought of a PBS series that was similar, but can’t think of the name of it. It was one where two couples tried living for a year in Canada like the pioneers did.

  8. October 6, 2008 4:30 pm

    This book sounds really interesting! Great review!

  9. October 6, 2008 6:04 pm

    I think I’d be more interested in reading about this than in actually trying to do it myself – thanks for the informative review!

  10. October 6, 2008 8:12 pm

    This looks like an interesting book.

    So, I read blogs using my bloglines account, and it hasn’t updated yours since at least 10/1. They often have issues on their site so it could be their fault, but I wondered if you had put some sort of security on your site so they can’t pick it up anymore. I just don’t want to miss your posts!

  11. October 6, 2008 8:35 pm

    This reminds me of my childhood. Although my parents didn’t go to this extreme, we did use an outhouse and my mom cooked on a wood cook stove.

    Although I could happily toss the cell phone and the tv, I refuse to voluntary go back to the days of the outhouse.

  12. October 6, 2008 9:40 pm

    Wow, that sounds fascinating. Every time we go camping I love the lack of computer and cell phones, but I do miss my fridge.

  13. October 7, 2008 11:43 am

    I would hate, hate, hate that! If I were married (thank goodness I’m not), it would totally destroy my relationship! Having to haul water and use a washtub would be a deal breaker right there! Plus, no Fresca, no Starbucks, no Amazon, no COMPUTER!!! Good Lord!

    I might like to read it though….

  14. October 7, 2008 6:56 pm

    Granted, our lives get way too complicated and way too full of a lot of junk. And the answer is…get rid of the junk!
    But a life like the one in this book, let us remember is also full of a lot of back breaking work. Very cold when it is cold and very hot when it is hot. And hard work.
    Personally, I love my music and I love my computer.
    But the book sounds interesting!

  15. October 7, 2008 9:29 pm

    I’d love to read this one, but I’m thinking, “More power to ’em.” I would soooo not do without my washing machine. But, I could stand to set aside some other modern conveniences that are, in general, time sucks. Like the computer.

  16. October 7, 2008 10:40 pm

    This sounds so interesting.

    I always admire people who have the flexibility in terms of their job/income to do stuff like this.

  17. October 8, 2008 7:15 am

    I love to read books like these. I could probably chuck tv. I don’t have any channels, the only thing I can do is rent movies, and I don’t do that often. I find it cuts too much into my precious reading time.

  18. stacybuckeye permalink
    October 8, 2008 12:56 pm

    This sounds fascinating. Thanks for the recommendation. I’m adding it to my ever expanding list.

  19. October 8, 2008 1:14 pm

    I read this book recently, too, and loved it. I’m planning to give some copies away for Christmas gifts (the copy I read was hard cover, but I believe it’s coming out in paperback soon . . Nov. or Dec.?) The book was really eye-opening; it’s so easy to romanticize the past, and the “simpler times” aspect of it. But this book really showed the backbreaking work part of it, too, and how if you don’t plant the garden, bring in the produce, can it and store it . . . you’re gonna starve! I, too, am not sure I could live without Starbucks, but I loved this account of a family that did.

  20. MeMe permalink
    October 9, 2008 10:46 am

    Hello You know how much I was interested in this one living about 20 minutes from Swoope..I might even buy this one and read it.Now wouldn’t that be something?????????????

  21. October 12, 2008 3:11 pm

    Very interesting. Sounds like a great idea most days, but I know I would miss blogging too much! 🙂 I’ll have to check this book out. I’m intrigued by their story.

  22. October 16, 2008 12:25 pm

    This sounds like an amazing read. I am soooo into simplifying, but I am not sure no care insurance would be a great idea….but i guess if you did not own a car. huh. I am putting this on my wish list, no doubt.

  23. glendasikes permalink
    January 17, 2009 2:05 am

    I read this after reading your review, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not an experiment I’d want to try my own self, but there are aspects of it I would enjoy. Thanks, too, for the link to the newspaper article — since the book did not include pictures, it was fun seeing the author and his family and snippets of their 1900-life.

  24. March 25, 2012 5:36 pm

    I definitely could not live like that if I had a choice!

  25. aartichapati permalink
    March 27, 2012 10:48 am

    It is interesting to me how many wealthy Manhattanites write books about leaving the city and getting away from it all. I suppose, in some ways, they are the only ones that can afford to do that for a full year? I like the idea but I wonder sometimes about what happens when the experiment is done- do they just go back to their very stressful lives and forget about the year spent living more simply?

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