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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment August 20, 2017


9/21/2010 1:10:00 PM
Local author recounts return to home ranch
By Kathryn Godsiff
Correspondent

Sarahlee Lawrence has crammed an awful lot of adventure into her 27 years. International river guide, horseback safari guide, organic vegetable farmer, local food proponent and most recently, author.

Lawrence's memoir, "River House," is the story of her return to the family ranch at Lower Bridge and the adventures leading to her decision. It's also the chronicle of the deep and sometimes fiery relationship between Sarahlee and her father as they labored to build a log house for her on the ranch.

Lawrence will be reading from the book and sharing more of her adventures at Paulina Springs Books in Redmond on Thursday, September 30 at 6:30 p.m.

The book began as essays for Lawrence's master's thesis. She earned her MS in environmental science and writing from the University of Montana in 2008. Her advisor encouraged her to submit the thesis to Tin House Books. It was accepted and an editor there took Lawrence under her wing, guiding her through the process of turning a 100-page thesis into a 272-page book that blends nature writing with memoir.

The book is full of glimpses into Lawrence's adventures on several rivers and tales of the dusty high desert. The publishers allowed her use of colloquialisms which in turn enables Lawrence's vibrant personality to shine on every page. This is no angst-ridden journey of discovery. "River House" is filled with wry observations of places and people, a sense of wonder at the life she finds herself living and an appreciation for how she got there.

The reader is drawn in from the first page, where Lawrence sits you down in the tent with her, waiting for a drenching rainstorm in Peru to abate in order to do a 200-mile run of the Tambopata River, flowing along the border of Peru and Bolivia. She has a description, written on a napkin, of the rapids awaiting her. They are called los monstrous, "the monsters."

This story isn't all adrenaline rushing description, though. There are contemplative moments and insights into the mind of one who flings herself down Class V rapids in parts of the world that are barely on maps. Water feeds Lawrence's soul, and it was a revelation to her to discover that her heart yearned for the dry and dusty Terrebonne ranch where she grew up.

She describes her homecoming, and working with her father to build her house, in revealing yet engaging terms. Her dad is eccentric, but comfortable with himself and Lawrence's love for him sparkles like the frost on winter mornings. It's a tale told without judgment, inviting the reader to share it in the same fashion. There's a lot of respect in this family, and an honest relationship which is refreshing to read about.

Lawrence's farm on Lower Bridge Way gets irrigation water from the Three Sisters Irrigation District, and she describes her part in piping the open canal. She figured out how to operate large machinery and work with neighbors to complete the project.

Readers get a firsthand view of a subject that caused controversy in the Sisters Country. This is a compelling, hopeful story, one that brims with passion and honesty. There are descriptions of some truly awful days, told bluntly but not without humor. Lawrence always manages to find a reason to get up the next morning. Those reasons resonate throughout the book, which make it more than just a young woman's homecoming tale. It's a story of wandering, of home, relationships and purpose.

Paulina Springs Books, Redmond, is located at 422 S.W. 6th St. "River House" is available to order from Paulina Springs Books and other outlets.





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