The Road Home
by Judy Watters

Franklin Scribes, 2013. ISBN 978-0-988-64331-4.
Reviewed by Mary Jo Doig
Posted on 01/11/2015

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment

I was a young city girl when I met the country boy I'd marry, but I'd fallen in love with country life long before meeting him. Thus, I was easily drawn into Watters' The Road Home. I'd fanned through the book's pages, studied the wonderful old-time photos of rural farm life decades ago, then looked through the chapter titles. There I found a list of twenty-eight life lessons the author learned from her parents in her rural upbringing and used them as an unusual and captivating structure in which to pen her engaging story.

Then I opened to Chapter One—or—Life Lesson #1: Cherish Each Moment. In a flash I was transported to Pennsylvania's Alleghany Mountains where I met Watters and her childhood family. In a dream, the now-adult author walks through each room in the long-empty farmhouse, recalling past events that showed some of the richness in their life on a 100-acre farm. The Road Home is "the story of a New York City orphan who left his mark on this world. Of a small-town girl who wanted to travel and see the world. Of the small broken down farm that, together, they rebuilt to make a home. And of the legacy of hard work and family bonds that they both left for generations to come."

It all started with Life Lesson #2: Make Good Choices. Nathan Sheer, in his mid-thirties, living in New York City, still single and unsure where he was headed in life, decided he wanted to leave the big city. At an employment agency he found two jobs that matched his skills: one in the city; the other in a small Pennsylvania town called Wellsboro. That small town beckoned his adventurous spirit and he was soon hired as head chef at Schanaker's Diner. On his first day of work, he stepped inside the diner to start cooking breakfast and met a young, pretty waitress named Blair, who would become his wife.

They were an unlikely couple with vastly different dreams for their futures. Nathan's mother died when he was born and he was placed in an orphanage. When he was 10, his father took him home to a step-mother and Nathan's older brothers. Soon clear that he was not wanted there, Nathan left, determined to find his own way in the world. Now, all these years later at age 36, following a long apprenticeship with a skilled baker and living with the baker's warm, loving family, Nathan longed for a home and family of his own. Blair, on the other hand, had lived her entire life on a farm and now 19, wanted to travel far and wide. Yet she knew from the moment she met Nathan that he was "the one." Time would prove each had made very good choices.

Love mellowed and shifted Blair's dreams, then the war beckoned Nathan, but they married in 1942 nevertheless. After the war Nathan came home to his wife and a new daughter, Virginia. Nathan's passion, (he always kept his day job) was to buy and operate a farm, for which he essentially had no skills. But he determined to learn, found and purchased an overpriced long-neglected farm. His neighbors joked and bet each year that he wouldn't be there the following year. Nathan befriended them all though, relationships that lasted more than three decades.

The path this couple chose and the decisions they made has been crafted into one of the most beautiful growing-up-on-a-farm stories I've ever read. Written with simplicity, clarity, honesty, and a generous heart, Watters warmly invites us into her childhood journey with her parents, three very different siblings, and a time and lifestyle that we can only read about in the present day. This book is a treasure on many levels.

Judy Watters' love of writing started in second grade with Mrs. Harrison at the Charleston Elementary School. Her childhood home, a 100-acre farm snuggled into the hillside halfway between Welsh Settlement and Cherry Flats in north central Pennsylvania, offered a huge playground and a wealth of story ideas. Her teaching career has provided even more. She is a board member of Story Circle Network, member of Faith Writers, Christian Writers' Group of San Antonio, co-leader of Hill Country Christian Writers and instructor of Legacy Writers. Judy and her husband reside in Spring Branch, Texas, and with their three children have created a legacy of their own. Visit her website.

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