Review: and I shall have some peace there by Margaret Roach

Title: and I shall have some peace there

Author: Margaret Roach

Genre/Pages: Memoir/272

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.

photo credit: margaret roach

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.

photo credit: Margaret Roach

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.

photo credit: Margaret Roach

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.

14 Comments

  • At 2011.02.24 09:26, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

    Your review is fantastic and has certainly piqued my interest in this memoir. I didn’t realize Roach had worked for Martha Stewart at one time.

    • At 2011.02.24 09:28, Natalie said:

      yes, she worked there for over 10 years and really ran the ship while martha was ‘away’. if you have a minute, you should visit her website and look at her photos. she is clearly quite talented and has created quite an oasis for herself upstate.

    • At 2011.02.24 09:50, rhapsodyinbooks said:

      I love the pictures – I think they would have roped me in as well!
      rhapsodyinbooks´s last blog post ..Review of “Pull” by B A Binns

      • At 2011.02.24 14:19, Ti said:

        The money aspect is interesting. I suppose if she was used to dropping $5K on a shopping trip, that that would be a hard habit to break once the big ticket job ceased to exist. Perhaps the desire was still there and knowing that the money was no longer coming in, she panicked and struck up this book deal as a bit of financial security?? Also, I think anyone doing a large rennovation thinks about $$ all the time.

        BUT.. I didn’t read the book so I can only guess as to why finances played such a big role in the book.

        Her house and garden turned out lovely. So much green!! Not something us folks in So Cal see too often.
        Ti´s last blog post ..Hello- Library It’s been a long time

        • At 2011.02.24 21:48, Jenners said:

          I think I just want a picture book … the house looks amazing!! (But when I think about it, I probably wouldn’t actually want to live there.)
          Jenners´s last blog post ..List- Lies I’m Telling Myself

          • At 2011.02.25 02:51, kay @ Infiniteshelf said:

            It’s interesting, but memoirs of the genre are usually not my cup of tea. The pictures are gorgeous though, and it sounds like something my mom would absolutely enjoy! I’ll see if I can find it for her!
            kay @ Infiniteshelf´s last blog post ..Artsy Shelf – 28 – From the back

            • At 2011.02.25 21:04, Natalie said:

              i would love margaret to put together a giant coffee table book chockful of images of her gardens–that would be a huge hit with me. while i enjoyed her story, i’m more interested in the transformation and lush landscape she created in a seemingly unwelcoming climate and terrain (per her notes in the memoir). her website is glorious and has so much info!

            • At 2011.02.25 11:53, Meg said:

              Hmm . . . I’m intrigued. I’m not typically a fan of memoirs — I just can’t seem to get into them — but I’m with you: those photos are amazing! I’m interested in how someone would choose to walk away from a life like that, too. Sounds like a good read — issues with finances aside.
              Meg´s last blog post ..Etsy Find Fridays- Lookin’ pretty in Tiffany Blue

              • At 2011.02.25 21:53, Dishy said:

                As someone who’s gone through a whole lot of transformation in a short period of time, this sounds like a story i could relate to – on the surface, at least. You can see why she wanted to move there full time. It’s stunning.
                Dishy´s last blog post ..Salmon with Mango and Chickpea Salad

                • At 2011.02.26 01:12, Jess - A Book Hoarder said:

                  Not sure if I will actually end up reading this one but I am definitely heading over to her website right now. The pictures of the house are ridiculous! Can I live there please?

                  • At 2011.02.26 22:46, Kathleen said:

                    I’m not sure how the stream of consciousness thing would work for me. I do find the idea of leaving city life behind to be appealing but I think I would probably only enjoy it for a short time!
                    Kathleen´s last blog post ..Reality is Broken Giveaway Winner Announced!

                    • At 2011.03.03 11:52, Jennifer said:

                      I tend to really enjoy the self-discovery memoir. And this one sounds like one that i would probably enjoy – especially the pictures. Just from what you shared, I am entranced. While I know that it will be no easy task, I hope to one day escape to an idyllic wilderness locale to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. But for now, I am enjoying the city and the business that comes with living here.
                      Jennifer´s last blog post ..Rejection Hurts

                      • At 2011.03.20 19:35, S. Krishna said:

                        I’m wary of Eat Pray Love type books as well, but this one does sound interesting. I’ll keep it in mind, thanks for the review!
                        S. Krishna´s last blog post ..Sunday Salon

                        • At 2011.04.01 22:08, Daisy Marshall said:

                          Lingering on the last chapter, hate for the book to end. Nature and nature’s creatures tales as fascinating as Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim on Tinker Creek. So many teachers in common, Ah! May Sarton, tremendous spiritual kinship, Jane Borysenko so essential. Maybe I’m not barking up the wrong tree plotting my own departure, you give me so much hope. Then I thought I was the only 69 year old woman that went under the dining room table in a lightning storm. Just saw the pictures of the house, the Buddah, it puts me there. Where is Jack? I have my own yellow Mr Buster waiting for me to become a full time mom. Congratulations Margaret, enjoy your well earned peace and know that your words have become new companions on my journey. May Spring be singing her song at your garden gate. Thank you, Daisy Marshall,

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