3.5 out of 5 stars
There is something about drystone wall that fit the countryside they inhabit. They are self-supporting structures that look simple to make, however, it is a craft that takes a while to master to ensure that they are strong and safe. Making them look beautiful though is another level up again. At the age of twenty-six, Whitney Brown had never seen a dry stone wall, let alone met a met a dry-stone waller. But chance meant that whilst helping at the Smithsonian Folk Festival she was introduced to a contingent of Welsh people including a female blacksmith and a man called Jack.
She was going through an emotional time and feeling the urge to smash things with a hammer would stop by to learn a little about how it was done. As they got talking they started to learn more about each other’s home country and by the end of the festival, Brown knew that all she wanted to head to the Welsh hills to learn about this craft. Declining a position at the Smithsonian, her parents tried to dissuade her from heading across the Atlantic, but she was smitten by the look of the countryside and could not think of any other way of quenching her burning desire on how to learn how to make dry stone walls.
Dry stone walling though is a tough job, but Brown grew to love it. The physical effort of shifting tonnes of stones took its toll on her body along with the wear and tear on her hands. She grew to love the countryside that she ventured out in every day, often getting cold and frequently wet (especially in Wales). She had the companionship of Jack who was twice her age, but more importantly the fellowship of the women in the local area who took her under their wings and carried her in her lowest ebbs.
This is a warm and touching memoir of a lady who completely fell in love with a country and a craft. It is raw and emotional too, as she wears her heart on her sleeve for a lot of the book, detailing the positive and the negatives of being so far from home and in the company of strangers. She was determined to take back what she has learnt on the hillsides of Wales and make a career from back in America, and it is something she has achieved judging by the impressive structures completed on her website.. She is one impressive lady who has the eye of an artist and the muscles of a waller.