Book Review: Lou Ureneck's 'The Cabin,' Building the Perfect Backwoods Sanctuary

As long as I can remember, I've held the idea of building a little shed deep in the woods in the back of my mind. It's one of those wouldn't-it-be-nice ideas, something I don't know I'll ever do, but love to think about. It's a romantic idea, a beautiful idea, and a chance to live out my own version of Walden. Lou Ureneck took his dream to build a cabin in the woods and made it a reality.

The Cabin is a thoughtful, moving account of a man desperate to find something meaningful in an otherwise melancholy state of existence. We meet Lou during a period of near despair; he loses his job, his mother, his wife, and his connection with the outdoor world after having lived in Boston for ten years. Like many of us, Lou was in deep need of something to give his life a renewed purpose, something to shake him out of the rut he found himself in. To reawaken his passion and hopes for happiness, he turned to nature.

Building a cabin in the woods had been a dream of Lou's for quite some time, as evidenced by the rotted pile of lumber that sat in his Massachusetts backyard for 20 years prior to his failed marriage. He'd been in love with the outdoors since childhood, some of which he spent trapping muskrats and catching crabs on the Jersey Shore. He found himself happiest outside and saw the completion of a cabin as a way to reconnect with the outdoor world he yearned for. In 2008, Lou bought five acres in rural Maine to begin building his refuge with the help of his younger brother Paul. The brothers deal with small town politics, and other related issues that come with erecting a structure in the middle of nowhere. Lou weaves a tapestry of history, culture and country living through his naturalist lens.

Lou openly shares intimate details of his childhood in New Jersey, his relationship with his mother and his lack of a strong father figure. He sought refuge in two places as a young man - the woods and the library. As construction progresses, Lou realizes that the cabin is more than a sanctuary for him; it's a way to rebuild a strained relationship with Paul, to hold on to memories they've shared, and to bond with Paul's sons. It's also a way for him to create a place that truly feels like home.

I gravitate towards books that tell true stories, memoirs and biographies in particular, because they're an honest glimpse into others' lives. I finished The Cabin feeling as though I got a deep look into the mind of a man I might never meet, but would undoubtedly enjoy the company of. It's beautifully written, even poetic at times. Lou is a typical man who finds himself far from where he'd hoped he'd be in middle age, and that's something any audience can identify with. The "dress rehearsal" quote below really struck me, enough that I had to put the book down and reflect for a few moments. The quote is from Lou's brother Paul, and Paul is absolutely right.

It's obvious that Lou values people of all sorts, given the amount of space he gives to everyone he meets along his journey. His deep desire for true connection is something I can identify with, and I felt for him during the pages describing some of the hardships he'd faced. The book is as much a description of what goes into cabin construction as it is a guide to emotional healing, a history of New England and an encyclopedia of birdwatching. I learned about building a cabin as much as I did the author and his passions, resulting in my seeking out Lou's contact information to inquire about sharing a cup of coffee someday. 

Overall, I'd highly recommend The Cabin to anyone with a passion for nature, to anyone who's ever thought about leaving the world behind for a shelter in the woods, and really, to anyone who enjoys a good book. Find it on Amazon.

Disclosure: I was provided a complimentary copy of The Cabin for this review. And thank goodness; it's a beautiful story I can't wait to pass on.


mommy said…
I'd love to have you pass it on to me!  woods, water, solitude . . . seeking the peace that we all yearn for, hope to find, treasure when it arrives . . .
k8tlevy said…
well, you're definitely the first in line, and the first to ask! it's a beautiful story, you'll love it.
Daniel Beach said…
sounds like an awesome post, if they have it in Kindle form I will pick it up for sure! Who doesn't want a cabin in the woods!