Book Review: Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living

If you listened to Jacob's interview with Doug Fine--and, if you haven't yet, what are you waiting for?--then you'll already be familiar with the premise of his book, Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living: World-weary journalist decides to live sustainably, settles down in a New Mexican ranch with two goats and a dog, and all hell breaks loose (just kidding). Now keep in mind that Fine isn't exactly Mr. Green--as he readily admits, he's never grown so much as a single tree or, for that matter, used any farming or ranching utensils (as you soon come to learn). And, in the end, that's perhaps what makes his story so appealing--and, more importantly, believable: After all, if a guy like this can milk his own goats and grow his own peas, shouldn't we all?

Fine's rollicking narrative takes the reader from his very first encounter with the Funky Butte Ranch to his first successful effort to plant his own crops--with all his short-lived triumphs, mishaps and discoveries in between. Whether you're learning the finer points of assembling rooftop solar panels or scratching your head in disbelief over the Kung Pao "smokescreen" (what's a ROAT anyway?), Fine's easy-going writing style and humor will keep you engaged through the end.

The author inserts helpful little eco-friendly messages--dealing with everything from corn ethanol to the benefits of organic produce--and recipes throughout the book, many of which one imagines he cobbled together during his own research living on the ranch. For the liberally-inclined, he peppers his chapters with many thinly veiled political comments about our energy policy and the current administration. Though the political subtext is clear, the gibes never seem forced or too excessive; and, to be fair, he also supplements those with a healthy dose of pop culture references.

By the end of Farewell, My Subaru, it's clear Fine has accomplished his goal: proving that, yes, it is possible to live sustainably--while still enjoying many of life's comforts, including Netflix, Wi-Fi access and a car. And while he doesn't sugar-coat the process, he does make it clear that, with the right intent and dedication, it can be relatively painless to live locally and off-the-grid.

Fine's own experience is, if anything, a vote of confidence in favor of sustainable living: Having completed his one-year "experiment," he decided to soldier on and remains, to this day, a faithful resident of the Funky Butte Ranch. He puts it best here:

Living local and green was not an all-or-nothing proposition. Each day I had another chance to make good choices, to move toward a healthy, independent, sustainable life. My first year's effort was just an initial step.

I was going to stay with it. Whether the green fad faded or gas got cheap again. And not just for planetary reasons, but for personal ones . . . Rather because it made life infinitely more joyful. Because it gave that crucial concept of home its depth. It gave me something manageable that I tangibly wanted to nurture into future generations. And I thought that's the greatest good I could do.

See also: ::Dispatches from Butte Ranch: Doug Fine's Bold Experiment in Sustainable Living, ::The TH Interview: Doug Fine--Kiss Your Subaru Goodbye (Part One)

Tags: Book Reviews