Bill Gruber (’79 Ph.D. English) and his wife moved to rural Benewah County, Idaho, in 1972, inexperienced in all the necessary skills, but filled with a desire for solitude, simplicity, and natural beauty. In 1979 they left, after turning their 40 acres into a homestead—and after regularly commuting the 50 miles to Moscow and then later Pullman for graduate studies.

More than 20 years later, Gruber summarized his experiences and insights in this quick-reading memoir. His book is light and comical, as he gently pokes fun at his own ignorance and at the oddnesses of his neighbors, but it is also deep and honest in his examination of lessons learned and soulful connections established.

Gruber does a great job of capturing the essential quirkiness of the people who choose to live in these remote and impoverished areas. For example, his neighbor Lowell Radke’s attic was covered with soot, not because a fire had burned there, but because Radke had enough chimney blocks only to get through the ceiling, not through the roof. So there he stopped, and decided the smoke could find its own way out.

Gruber recounts tale after tale about the generosity and can-do spirit of his neighbors, and fills out his 12 chapters with a context for those stories.

The years at Alder Creek were full of meaning, he decides, noting, “the seven years I lived in Idaho were half magical and yet more real than anything else I have ever seen or done.”


—Bill London, Senior Communications Officer, College of Education, WSU


William Gruber ’79
Houghton Mifflin Company
New York