Shantyboat is the story of a leisurely journey down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans. For most people such a journey is the stuff that dreams are made of, but for Harlan and Anna Hubbard it became a cherished reality. In the fall of 1944 they built a houseboat, small but neatly accommodated to their needs, on the bank of the Ohio near Cincinnati, and in it after a pause of two years they set out to drift down the river.
In their small craft, the Hubbards became one with the flow of the river and its changing weathers. An artist by profession, Harlan Hubbard records with graceful ease the many facets of their life on the river-the panorama of fields and woods, summer gardening, foraging expeditions for nuts and berries, dangers from storms and treacherous currents, the quiet solitude of the mists of early morning. Their life is sustained by the provender of bank and stream, useful things made and found, and mutual aid and wisdom from people met along the journey. It is a life marked by simplicity and independence, strenuous at times, but joyous, with leisure for painting and music, for observation and contemplation.
The boat conveys its household into the wilderness. From its windows... the world is newly seen and understood. But also newly understood are the meanings of being married, of living together, of having neighbors, of the skills and arts by which people house, feed, and please themselves, and care for one another.~Wendell Berry, from the Foreword
Harlan Hubbard is one of the best writers about 'alternative' life in America. His graceful prose is a model for writers in the same way his and Anna's lives are models for all people who seek to live in nature with grace and economy.~Gurney Norman
An undervalued classic of American letters. It belongs on a bookshelf sandwiched between Twain's Life on the Mississippi and Thoreau's Walden.~Ohio Magazine
Some books, such as Thoreau's Walden, or Nearing's Living The Good Life, have become a permanent part of my home library. Every so often I reread them, my life's intervening experience lending new insight to the author's words. Shantyboat is such a book, and as I return my dog-eared copy to the bookcase, I know that someday I will read it yet again and it will once more offer a fresh perspective of my own life.~WoodenBoat