Review: Twenty Acres: A Seventies Childhood in the Woods by Sarah Neidhardt (2023)

Twenty Acres: A Seventies Childhood in the Woods (Ozarks Studies) Paperback — March 7, 2023 by Sarah Neidhardt (Author) University of Arkansas Press

Twenty Acres: A Seventies Childhood in the Woods by Sarah Neidhardt is a memoir that takes readers back to a childhood spent on a wild, 20-acre plot in the woods of Arkansas. This book provides readers with a unique perspective on an important piece of America’s history from someone living through the early ’70s, a turbulent time for most Americans.

This was a time period during the early ’70s when Americans were dissatisfied with the Vietnam War, racial strife, and inequality. Many urban Americans uprooted and moved “back to the land” during this time. The Back to the Land movement may not be remembered much today, but it’s hardwired into America's subconscious. Many urban 20-somethings, with The Whole Earth Catalog in their back pockets and a trunk full of Foxfire books, sought to do what their grandparents had done and live the simple life. In this memoir, Neidhardt has deftly captured her parents’ choice to take this risk and live off the land in rural Arkansas. Readers are instantly caught up in storytelling that is loving while also being brutally honest.

The writing in Twenty Acres is at once deep and accessible, luminous yet fierce. Neidhardt’s descriptive prose captures both the beauty of the outdoors and the inner workings of her family: the everyday life in the cabin, the struggles to keep up with the ever-changing elements of nature, the joys of coming together despite the hardships, and the lessons learned about what makes a house a home.

Neidhardt paints a vivid picture of her family’s time spent in the country and the beautiful, natural landscapes that enveloped their home. She starts with her introduction of her family and the different dynamics between her parents, siblings, and extended family. This sets up the vast array of characters and relationships that will be explored over the course of the memoir.

By unearthing the stories that shaped her childhood, Neidhardt not only gives us a portrait of a unique and vibrant era —…


Dean Jones is a Librarian, Cookbook Reviewer, and writer. Dean lives in the SF Bay Area with his lovely wife and their six kids.