If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now: Why We Traded the Commuting Life for a Little House on the Prairie

If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now: Why We Traded the Commuting Life for a Little House on the Prairie

The hilarious, charming, and candid story of writer Christopher Ingraham’s decision to uproot his life and move his family to Red Lake Falls, Minnesota, population 1,400—the community he made famous as “the worst place to live in America” in a story he wrote for the Washington Post.  Like so many young American couples, Chris Ingraham and his wife Briana were having a dif...

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Title:If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now: Why We Traded the Commuting Life for a Little House on the Prairie
Author:Christopher Ingraham
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If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now: Why We Traded the Commuting Life for a Little House on the Prairie Reviews

  • Karin

    To be fair, the author is a friend, someone whom I have known since Kindergarten (although it has been years since we actually saw each other). I also know his amazing wife Briana, who is as essential to this story as he is; I admire how she made her own path on their journey.

    But even setting aside the personal enjoyment that came from reading my friend's words and recognizing the Chris-ness of the story and the voice, this was a funny, compelling story of family, place, and community. And of t

    To be fair, the author is a friend, someone whom I have known since Kindergarten (although it has been years since we actually saw each other). I also know his amazing wife Briana, who is as essential to this story as he is; I admire how she made her own path on their journey.

    But even setting aside the personal enjoyment that came from reading my friend's words and recognizing the Chris-ness of the story and the voice, this was a funny, compelling story of family, place, and community. And of the value of stepping back to re-assess both the kind of lives we want to live and how we think and make assumptions about people, places, and ways of life we don't really know.

  • Claire Reads Books

    Adding an extra star for sentimental, Upper Midwestern reasons. I grew up in a Wisconsin town of 10,000—so not quite the far-flung prairie outcropping of northwestern Minnesota (Red Lake Falls, pop. 1,404) that Chris Ingraham and his family move to from the Washington, D.C., suburbs—but nearly everything about this memoir reminded me of growing up in rural-ish Midwestern lake country (just swap out the church basement lutefisk for Friday night fish fry). In the broader scheme of things, this boo

    Adding an extra star for sentimental, Upper Midwestern reasons. I grew up in a Wisconsin town of 10,000—so not quite the far-flung prairie outcropping of northwestern Minnesota (Red Lake Falls, pop. 1,404) that Chris Ingraham and his family move to from the Washington, D.C., suburbs—but nearly everything about this memoir reminded me of growing up in rural-ish Midwestern lake country (just swap out the church basement lutefisk for Friday night fish fry). In the broader scheme of things, this book is mostly a trifle—think of it as a slightly more rugged, North American version of ‘The Year of Living Danishly’—but it’s also a delight, and a relatively thoughtful one that mostly resists a rose-colored glasses vision of flyover country. Reading it felt like going home. ❤️

  • Susan

    Wow, what a great, fun, well-written little book. As a born and raised city person, at first I thought to myself, "OMG, what are you thinking!?" But now that I live in the mountains I understand what he was trying to achieve for himself and his family. Loved all the neighbors, down to earth and funny! If this book makes it big, Red Lake Falls might become a destination!

  • Robin

    Ingraham's memoir chronicling how his bad judgment in naming a town in Minnesota the "worst place to live in America" in a Washington Post article led to a permanent move for him and his family is delightful. His engaging and candid writing covers the dearth of services in a small town (including the lack of specific medical facilities and restaurants), the cooperation and helpfulness of the local residents (aka "Minnesota-nice"), finding a house to purchase, and yes, how to cope in the Minnesot

    Ingraham's memoir chronicling how his bad judgment in naming a town in Minnesota the "worst place to live in America" in a Washington Post article led to a permanent move for him and his family is delightful. His engaging and candid writing covers the dearth of services in a small town (including the lack of specific medical facilities and restaurants), the cooperation and helpfulness of the local residents (aka "Minnesota-nice"), finding a house to purchase, and yes, how to cope in the Minnesota winters where the temperature can dip to -40 degrees. I loved this from start to finish (even his sections on data and statistics kept my interest), and his "crickets in the bathroom" incident and his wife's response were hysterical.

    If you are a fan of Bill Bryon's memoirs about his life and travels, be sure to pick this up when it's released in September 2019.

    Thanks to the publisher (HarperCollins) for the advance reading copy.

  • M. Sarki

    I grew up in a small northern Michigan town where the temperatures remained cold and the snow deep enough to continually shovel several months of the year. I delivered the Detroit Free Press on my bicycle seven mornings a week beginning at the age of nine. I was raised a Lutheran.

    ...

    I grew up in a small northern Michigan town where the temperatures remained cold and the snow deep enough to continually shovel several months of the year. I delivered the Detroit Free Press on my bicycle seven mornings a week beginning at the age of nine. I was raised a Lutheran.

    ...

    My wife and I raised our family in Louisville, Kentucky. We lived there for thirty-one years. Now we live full-time in a travel trailer and pretty much stay on the move. Our base camp in the Florida panhandle has a population that numbers just over two thousand. Much can be said for small-town living. But it does have its drawbacks. Christopher Ingraham has done an admirable job of showing both sides in telling both an interesting tale as well as remaining factual.

  • Debbi

    I have a special place in my heart for memoirs that focus on finding one's true home in the world. This was an enjoyable listen. I loved the small town stories made more interesting with a sprinkle of data. Ingraham provides insight into why small town living can work for even the most cynical city dweller...working from home solves the problem of commuting, there's more family time, lower mortgages, and neighbors who have your back and you can always order delicious food on the internet. Sweet.

  • Mackenzie - PhDiva Books

    Candid, humorous, thought-provoking—Christopher Ingraham’s memoir chronicles the article he wrote that ended up changing his life, and what has happened since. I loved this book!

    In 2015 Christopher Ingraham was working as a data reporter for the Washington Post and wrote an article ranking of all counties in the U.S. on their aesthetic beauty based on a natural amenities index. Things like the gap between the coldest and hottest average temperatures and access to natural water sources seem like

    Candid, humorous, thought-provoking—Christopher Ingraham’s memoir chronicles the article he wrote that ended up changing his life, and what has happened since. I loved this book!

    In 2015 Christopher Ingraham was working as a data reporter for the Washington Post and wrote an article ranking of all counties in the U.S. on their aesthetic beauty based on a natural amenities index. Things like the gap between the coldest and hottest average temperatures and access to natural water sources seem like great metrics, but it’s hard to quantify what makes a place great to live.

    Ingraham not only reported on some of the most beautiful counties according to this list, but also gave a shout out to the place in dead last, Red Lake Falls, Minnesota calling it “the worst place to live in America” and citing a fun fact about their county being that it is the only landlocked county in the U.S. surrounded by just two adjacent counties.

    The story went viral and tweets poured in. Among the reactions were many from residents of Red Lake County. While they were unflappably polite – it’s not called “Minnesota Nice” for nothing – they challenged him to look beyond the spreadsheet and actually visit their community. Ingraham accepted.

    Upon returning to the Baltimore suburb where he and his wife Briana struggled to make ends meet, find enough room for their twin sons, and manage the 3+ hour commute to Washington D. C. for work, Ingraham found himself thinking that life in rural America wasn’t so bad. Impressed by the locals’ warmth, humor and hospitality, Chris and Briana eventually relocated to the town he’d just dragged through the dirt on the Internet.

    More than 80% of the U.S. population lives in cities or the surrounding suburbs. And yet, Ingraham remarks and provides data throughout the novel that city life isn’t actually so great, depending on the metric you use. When we look in the 60s and 70s when salaries were growing and resources and jobs were located in cities, the transition of the population to city environments made sense. Now, salaries are pretty stagnant, which means the burden and cost of city life is almost entirely on the people, not the companies who hire them.

    Teleworking is an answer to that challenge, according to Ingraham. In the first third of the book, he explores a lot of the challenges of life that he and his wife took as a given—the long commutes, the trouble finding affordable housing, the proximity to neighbors they don’t particularly like or know—as part of life. There’s no better way. After he returned from Red Lake County, all of that changed. He really noticed what in his life was making him miserable. And he also realized there is a solution. His job technically didn’t require him to be in DC, so with approval, they moved.

    I found Ingraham’s writing to be filled with humor, interesting facts, and wonderful commentary on the absurd place he found himself, and what he liked about it. Everything isn’t roses—there are a few crises he mentions that genuinely made him worried he made the wrong move—but everything worked out ok. The resource of a community willing to do everything to help far outweighs the access to better resources in other ways in a city.

    In fact, the worst part of living in Red Lake County, Minnesota, seems to be the coffee (Minnesotans evidently are proud that they drink it black but that is only because it is mostly water) and the pizza. In fact, the best pizza in the state of Minesota, Ingraham alleges, is DiGiorno, followed distantly by Dominos. I’d love someone from Minnesota to weigh in on this, because that was a fact I found alarming! Pizza is one of the best foods, and the proud Chicagoan in me is horrified!

    This book is about how data can never really tell the full story, and how making a leap of faith in your life can turn your preconceptions on their heads and bring you something you never thought possible. I loved this book!

    Thank you to Harper Books for my copy. Opinions are my own.

  • Jessica

    When a Washington Post data reporter declares Red Lake County, Minnesota the “Ugliest County in America” based on various index measurements of “beauty” from a government database, little did he know that almost a year later he would end up actually moving his whole family there.

    County locals invite him to come out for a visit, and he experiences the warmth of the people and the peaceful open plains of the landscape. A few months later when him and his wife were contemplating where to move next

    When a Washington Post data reporter declares Red Lake County, Minnesota the “Ugliest County in America” based on various index measurements of “beauty” from a government database, little did he know that almost a year later he would end up actually moving his whole family there.

    County locals invite him to come out for a visit, and he experiences the warmth of the people and the peaceful open plains of the landscape. A few months later when him and his wife were contemplating where to move next (their 900 sq foot house in the DC area wasn’t cutting it with twin toddlers), they threw caution to the wind and decided to move to Red Lake County!

    I love books like these. Upending your whole life to live in a completely different place is just so intriguing and is like getting to live vicariously through someone else. Other titles I enjoyed about this sort of thing are The Year of Living Danishly, and all the books about moving to France (basically anything by David Lebovitz). I’ve never been to Minnesota but as a fellow DC area resident, I can see the attraction to moving to a more rural and affordable area.

    The author talks about the Minnesota culture, the harsh winters, his experience deer hunting, and dealing with finding good medical services in a remote area. He also acknowledges that being a white family and moving to a county that is 95% white didn’t pose that much of an adjustment. What if they were of a different race? Would they be welcomed into the community the same way? It’s hard to answer those questions, but I really appreciated the author bringing it up as it was something I was curious about.

    It took about 80 pages to get to the actual move. There were some infographics throughout the book which were fun but I didn’t find them particularly insightful. I would have loved getting more of his wife’s perspective, as she not only moved across the country, but quit her very fulfilling full time career for the stay at home mom life. I think there were some parts, like the hunting and fishing, that dragged for me, but overall a very informative and interesting book!

    This one comes out on September 10!

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫/5

    Thanks to the publisher for providing me a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

  • Sandra

    Overall, I really liked this book. It made me nostalgic for where/how I grew up, and stirred my feelings of wanting to move somewhere more rural (that are never very far from the surface to begin with). I liked how the author worked statistics and datasets into the writing as well, without losing the emotion or engagement.

    There were a couple of chapters (his description of his wife’s education/background for example) that I didn’t enjoy, and I felt there was a little something in the author’s pe

    Overall, I really liked this book. It made me nostalgic for where/how I grew up, and stirred my feelings of wanting to move somewhere more rural (that are never very far from the surface to begin with). I liked how the author worked statistics and datasets into the writing as well, without losing the emotion or engagement.

    There were a couple of chapters (his description of his wife’s education/background for example) that I didn’t enjoy, and I felt there was a little something in the author’s personality that I didn’t jibe with. Maybe I just was being too critical, and comparing him to Bill Bryson (his humor and humility aren’t quite at the same level).

    Overall, I recommend this book as a quick, engaging read!

  • Jeanette

    It's well worth the read. 3.5 stars at least. The only reason I didn't round it up was because some of the chapters read unevenly. They did to me. He's now making his living in writing and can you tell.

    So as much as I loved the tale of the move and afterwards, there was some other information within this that while not at all offensive, I thought was too, too. He certainly is not close to being as open-minded as he believes he is.

    I sure was cheering his wife on. Briana sounds like she'd be an aw

    It's well worth the read. 3.5 stars at least. The only reason I didn't round it up was because some of the chapters read unevenly. They did to me. He's now making his living in writing and can you tell.

    So as much as I loved the tale of the move and afterwards, there was some other information within this that while not at all offensive, I thought was too, too. He certainly is not close to being as open-minded as he believes he is.

    I sure was cheering his wife on. Briana sounds like she'd be an awesome friend.

    Knowing most of Minnesota as well as I do and also hearing oodles about it for over 50 years as my best friend from the time I was 20 years onward was from Hibbing. (Yes, Bobby Zimmerman was in her school class and she couldn't stand him- Bob Dylan as you know him.) She's passed and do I miss her. Every day I do. This book brought many of her long stories and memories back to me. Her Dad was the Butcher Shop owner. Especially the deer gutting etc. as told by Ingraham here. And also the calling other kids to play after 9pm at night as it's light out.

    He tried to explain "Minnesota Nice" but he really doesn't "get it" much. Possibly his wife does a bit more. He gets the outside facades of owning it. But he doesn't understand the "us" and "them" or other aspects of it at all. Nor the legacy of a generation or two or three to the exact "knowing" of the natural world they "run" either. It holds a general moral responsibility level assumed to be returned and expanded too. And I've found that "Minnesota Nice" has definitely left the building with the bigger towns and larger cities of that state. I've been manhandled for a dinner box leftover carry in Minneapolis, for instance. It has to do with behavior of actions as much as it does with manners of speech and verbal treatments of welcome or inclusion. But did you notice that the Catholics are excluded? They are and not just for church activities either. He mentioned a crux of differing. That's not the same thing at all. Lutherans rule.

    As much as I agreed with him about the food and 90% of this very interesting and informative to his happiness quotient tale (I adored the graphics- they were 5 star)- Christopher is solidly Christopher. You can take the boy out of the East Coast hubris cognition, but you can't take the East Coast hubris cognition out of the boy. As impossible as trying to clear and salt the asphalt or pavement anytime after November in Red Lake Falls. Or trying to ice skate when all the cleared areas are used for hockey endlessly, day and night.

    Others have reviewed the background to this book. But it's far more than just a synopsis of their moving reasons and outcomes. It's also pivotal that you get their schooling etc. as he explains them and family distances relativity, IMHO. In the things he states he sees, and understands-he's open, brave and honest. And also because of the things he doesn't, maybe that is also so. A few of the reviewers on this absolutely know what I'm posting about- because I did read the reviews on this one. After I finished the book and before I started this reaction, I read them. As I was curious to how many picked up on the same jibes melding and vibes of interpreting that I did.

    Lovely read. So few books nail the essence of kids, parenthood, the spirit of freedom and loose adventures as it is optionally lived and enjoyed. This is NOT freedom from danger or happenstance either, as Ingraham often notes. Living within strong natural world adversity, but also within a majority safe and good intent culture of similar self-identities to "us" in both habits and traditions. Where trust is established and not nearly annihilated every other day. And not only by crime either. Also by language, morality of lawful observance etc. (The chapter on the teens role model for those found cigarettes- was awesome. Yes, we were like that too. Also never heard a swear word until I was on a trucking dock when I was 22.) His chapters on schooling, diversity etc. and especially upon his son's small desired class sizes with nearly "same" levels of attention and interchange from individual teacher to each pupil were excellent. And yet he uses charting and data of diversity in a slant that doesn't include Native Americans in MN. Where he lives now, that floored me. There is HUGE prejudice there. Take my word for it. It's not always the same as the other various "brands" of vast stereotype, either.

    Do I think they will stay past grade school level for the twins? Very much doubt it.

    And let me tell you. I love cold. I went NORTH to relax in retirement months. But that is TOO COLD for me. You need to truly love inside "stuff". And not cooking either- because half the items you need will only get to you through the mails. I'm still surrounded by folks who say nearly everything over oatmeal pablum is "too spicy". Drives me nuts!

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