Books & Literature

Book Review: Down the Dirt Roads, by Rachael Treasure

The memoir of Rachael Treasure, who discovered inner strength and a passion for sustainable living after her marriage broke down and she lost almost everything.

What could have been the end turned out to be just the beginning. When Rachael Treasure’s marriage broke down she lost almost everything, including her family’s farm. The shock of this forced new start, however, gave her fresh perspective on life. As she moved on – ‘down the dirt roads’ – she discovered an inner strength and a passion for grassroots, sustainable living.

Treasure’s memoir, Down the Dirt Roads, reveals the struggles and joys of country life in Australia. After the move from her familiar surroundings to temporary lodgings with friends, the now-single mother started from scratch on a farm that was a definite step down from the one she’d come from. In spite of this, she was determined to create a happy home for her children and a productive, positive life. With the support of a group of like-minded locals she began trialling new ways of working with what she had. Together they experimented with grazing techniques, pasture cropping and natural methods of building up healthy soil.

The book contains musings on traditional versus modern farming practices – what enriches the landscape, and what harms and depletes – as Treasure reflects on what went wrong in her life, and shares stories of the people and ideas that reinvigorated her desire to live lightly on the land. There’s also a focus on healing (herself and her land) and a recognition of the urgent need for change and a move away from toxic farming methods.

Down the Dirt Roads is not a ‘how to’ book. There are family tales and references to ancient wisdom as Treasure takes creative inspiration from the women who came before her. She reveals her fears and insecurities, honestly sharing her own experiences and where they’ve led her as she searches for the inspiration to move forward and face the future. As she yearns for a new life free of the restrictions and pressures of commercial agriculture, she explores theories and approaches that some may find challenging to accept. For those readers who seek to examine things in more depth she includes a reference list and suggestions for further research.

If you’re looking for an engaging, accessible read then this heartfelt account of one woman’s journey to fulfilment is a good choice.

Rachael Treasure is a former journalist, now fiction and non-fiction writer, whose previous novels include Jillaroo, The Stockmen, The Rouseabout, The Cattleman’s Daughter, and The Farmer’s Wife. She lives in rural Tasmania with her two young children.

Reviewed by Jo Vabolis

Rating out of 10: 7

Published by: Penguin Random House Australia
Published Date: October 2016 (trade paperback & ebook), July 2017 (paperback)
RRP: $35 trade paperback, $12.99 ebook, $24.99 paperback

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