Review: and I shall have some peace there by Margaret Roach
Author: Margaret Roach
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)
Release Date: February 23, 2011
Rating: 2.5 Bookmarks (borrow it, but visit her website)
Source: Publisher via netGalley
Nat’s One-Sentence Synopsis: After years of shuttling back and forth between New York City and her cottage upstate, Margaret Roach, former editorial director for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, packs up her Saab for one final trip north: this time not just staying for the weekend, she’s staying for good.
In the wake of September 11th, Margaret Roach began plotting a graceful exit from her position at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia but was thwarted at several turns by circumstances, including Martha’s own sojourn to a federal prison, hampering Roach’s efforts to move upstate to embrace her own renaissance until 2008 at age 51.
After casting off her corporate persona and embracing a more solitary and simple life, Roach became an inspiration to many. Her wildly successful and well-written website, A Way to Garden, offers “garden information and inspiration”. The site is a multi-media marvel featuring photographs, FAQs, a resource guide, a newsletter, radio podcasts, and much more.
Since reading Eat, Pray, Love, I’ve been a bit leery of the (what I deem self-indulgent) ‘rediscovery’ style memoir but accepted this one for review because Roach’s website and photos drew me in. I wanted to learn more about this woman who walked away from an extremely lucrative and powerful position, second in command only to Martha Stewart herself, to go garden in woods of New York. I think that ‘gardening’ is a misnomer. Roach is clearly an artist with a keen eye for detail and beauty.
In and I shall have some peace there, Roach comes off as a moderately neurotic New Yorker plagued by paralyzing fears of snakes and lightning–things that are in high supply in Copake Falls, NY. She tells her tale in a stream of conscious style, peppering the memoir with song lyrics, lists, and asides. As I read on, Roach found herself adapting and changing to the world around her–something that I think must have been difficult for someone as powerful as she had been at MSLO.
The sheer amount of work that Roach had to undertake to transform the rocky terrain into the beautiful gardens of her photos is unimaginable. While she owned the cottage for many years before moving there permanently, it was in need of repairs and updates. Roach did battle with vermin, inhospitable winter weather, electrifying summer storms, and her own fear of dying as a result of a careless mistake or miscalculation (she lived alone).
I found Roach’s writing style to be a bit different on paper than on her website. The stream of conscious approach made the writing seem, at times, disjointed. While I enjoyed reading about her developing relationships with locals and neighbors, I wish some transitions had been smoother.
While the memoir was an interesting read–I savored it over a week or so–I found Roach’s frequent references to her dwindling finances vexing. She blithely wrote about dropping $5,000 in 15 minutes during “therapy sessions” at high end department stores in the city and traveling to spas around the globe during her Martha days. Please explain how, when she planned her exodus for almost 8 years, Roach found herself worrying about money enough to motivate her to secure a book deal in the first few months upstate?
and I shall have some peace there would be a good read (and cautionary tale) for anyone who has ever wanted to just pack it all in and move away to her utopia. Roach clearly illustrates how paradise isn’t always as idyllic as it seems but with some hard work and patience, good things will come. Her fortitude and determination on that score alone impressed me. While this memoir doesn’t fall into the same whiny, self-indulgent trap that others before it have, I did find myself wishing that Roach would have steered clear of financial references and streamlined her narrative just a tad more.