“World Gone Beautiful: Life Along the Rum River” by Linda Buturian

World Gone Beautiful by Linda Buturian was this month’s pick for my book group. I was glad to read and support a local writer, but I was even more interested to learn about Buturian’s unique living situation that she and a group of friends and family have created on the Rum River near the small towns of Princeton and Milaca Minnesota:

A commune, a planned neighborhood, an intentional cul-de-sac, the compound. What are we? For eight years now, four families have lived next to each other on a piece of land in rural Minnesota…We are middle-aged friends who bought land together and are living and raising our kids alongside each other. It continues to make good sense. (120)

Through a series of linked, deliberately non-chronological essays, Buturian uses words to sketch impressions of her life in the deliberate community she and her friends created in 1996. It’s a history, a journal of sorts, and an ongoing meditation on the questions of “what have we done/what are we doing?”

The idea came first. Linda and her friend Debbie talked about buying land and living as neighbors when they were theology students in Oregon. Then came the land in Minnesota, the building and renovations, the animals and the children.

This is not a how-to manual, or even necessarily an encouragement to do what they have done. Buturian is refreshingly honest about the ambivalence she often feels, and how the joys and rewards are sometimes fleeting compared to the irritation and hard work of the life they’ve created. Like Anne LaMott, an author she mentions in the book, Buturian has a wry and self-deprecating sense of humor that keeps her observations afloat above depression or self-involvement. She interweaves stories of parenting, relationships, and religion as LaMott has done, with ecology and sociology thrown in for good measure.

This is a thoughtful, provocative book, especially for those who’ve wondered about moving off the grid, or at least away from a city for more land and greater peace. Buturian makes it clear their “cul-de-sac” is no utopia, but it certainly has its idyllic moments, which I found delightful to read about and ponder.

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