A refreshingly honest account of one couple’s remarkable project: to open their family home to some of society’s most vulnerable people.
So this is no Hollywood-style tale of redemption and transformation. It is something much more honest: a warts-and-all account of what it is like to try a radically different way of living and to not only survive but have real triumphs. Buildings are constructed – friendships are formed – conflicts resolved. Complete strangers offer their time money and resources to support the project. As the community comes together Jones notices that people are slowly changing: the addict who arrived with papery skin becomes ‘rural ruddy’ – the heavily sedated bipolar teenager finds he is able to cook meals for everyone.
Even in the darkest moments there are plenty of reasons to laugh. One visitor informs the couple that they should be on duty 24 hours a day in case he ‘needs some cheese’ – another recovering addict kindly saves Francesca a doughnut but can’t resist taking one neat bite out of it. Thanks to Jones’s sense of humour the book rarely feels ‘worthy’ in the pejorative sense – despite the subject matter. And while he is deeply knowledgable about communalism he is reassuringly sceptical about the wackier fringes of alternative culture (Glastonbury is memorably described as ‘the only place I know where you’ll see a busker playing a dulcimer’).
The book raises some knotty questions about idealism.