Searching for the simple life is not so simple.
By Terri Schlichenmeyer
Someone is sleeping in your bed. Okay, so it’s not really your bed anymore. In fact, it’s not even your home these days, but visiting the place where you grew up makes you remember your childhood. Everything is different through adult eyes—the rooms look so tiny!—even though it seems like nothing’s changed.
But you did, the second you moved out.
When he was a little boy growing up in the Ozarks, Wade Rouse spent many happy hours sitting on a glider on a hill with his grandmother. There, she shared her wisdom, quoting a much-loved, bedraggled (and pilfered) copy of Walden by Thoreau.
Rouse says he couldn’t get away from the country fast enough.
As soon as he could, he moved to the city, where Ikea and Starbucks were a quick drive away. He and his partner, Gary, practically lived at the gym and the tanning booth. Keeping up with fashion and celebrities and shopping were high priorities.
But something was missing.
Signs were pointing Rouse to a different place in his life. While on vacation to Saugatuck, Michigan, he found it.
Rouse and Gary never planned on moving, but the cottage was too perfect. It was perched on the edge of woods, near a farm with horses and another with blueberries. There was a to-die-for view of nature out back and a rusty pink trailer next door. Lake Michigan was a mile away. Who could resist?
In the new house, channeling Thoreau, wanting to write, and desperately looking for a New Wade, Rouse tried to live by 10 tenets that Walden’s most famous resident embraced, modernized to fit a new century. But Michigan has snow—lots of it—and wild animals and germ-filled dirt and bare feet. There are back-to-nature types there, and hunters and rednecks. And this stretch of Michigan lacked Ikea, well-stocked grocers, and a corner Starbucks.
How could a gay man from the city possibly thrive?
How could you not love a book that starts out with “There’s a raccoon on my head”?
Author Wade Rouse is introspective and sarcastic, often in the same sentence—a writing style that’s intimate yet hilarious. He paints a perfect picture of his surroundings and the people he lives near, exaggerating the ridiculous and noting the kindness. He’s willing to poke fun at himself and Gary, their peccadilloes and their relationship, and their fears while becoming accustomed to new surroundings. And Rouse’s memories of his parents, his childhood, and his beloved grandmother will melt your heart.
While I don’t know that I’d give this book to Grandma, I really loved it and I think you will, too. Pick up At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream and see that you can always go home, as long as you clearly know where it is.
Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was three years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.
Photo caption: Country living: Wade Rouse (r), author of At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream, and his partner, Gary, spend some quality time with their two dogs.