Review by: Shareshten Senior
Photography by: Cedar McCrary
I think many of us have thought at some point, “What if I just took off and lived in the woods?” Well, this story is the answer to that ‘what if.’ Get saddled up and ready for the best fire-side book of the season. An autobiography about growing up in the wilderness, “The Soulful Child” is a wild ride through time and nature’s rhythms — from the streets of Haight Ashbury at the peak of the ‘60s to the timelessness of mountain ranges.
“The Soulful Child” is a book about a troubled father who has beautiful and wholesome ideals for life. This first-person narrative is told by his eldest daughter, Chloe. In the late 1960s, Chloe’s parents leave San Francisco and successful artistic careers in music and activism to survive off the land. Retreating to a new home with no running water, they live out their dream of farming all their own food and raising their children away from the indoctrination of society. This is the story of how the family lived in a completely sustainable manner, and how they fully embraced Mother Nature and her many lessons when dealing with some of life’s most challenging circumstances. At the end of this book you will have taken a long walk in the woods and come out the other side of the forest with a newfound connection to the wild and the heart of one family surviving it.
If you find yourself stuck in the city this holiday season, this book will give you a taste of every season and bring you face-to-face with black bears, so close, you will feel their breath on your skin. Gallaway takes us on the adventures of a young girl who questions everything while galloping through mountains strewn with wildflowers.
The story’s main theme revolves around Chloe’s constant search for the deeper meaning in her father’s duality of character. She experiences the heart of her father’s connection to nature and his work with horses in a profound manner that leaves her forever bonded to some of his ideals around nature and spirituality. Yet she is also left hopeless and must summon her own hidden warrior within to take a stand against her father’s inconsistencies and rage that ever so often turn the corner like the worst of a winter storm.
Chloe’s father often sings and plays music for the family; one of his first songs will leave you reflecting on his own inner battle with pain and guilt, strung against the background of a global pain that has never left the surface, and penetrates the heart of America today.
Sustainable living lovers will love the scene where a single acoustic performance of this song was the currency by which Chloe’s father was given the rights to property they lived on as a gift from the actor Dennis Hopper. Her dad lived out the rest of his life on this land Chloe describes in full color throughout the pages of the book.
We are living in a world today where everyone wants to escape and there are more options than ever for indulging in escapism. Chloe’s father, however, didn’t want to escape through psychedelic drugs like others of his time. He hoped his retreat into nature could actually free himself and his family from the shackles of materialism and the undertone of an unconscious movement within a culture to keep its people from living freely and sustainably.
This book is most timely because it illustrates how the plagues of society do not simply go away — unaddressed, they look for us and hunt us down. Unaddressed our own inner demons will find their way to the surface, and our issues in being human will become evident to all those around us, forcing us then to take a deeper look at ourselves for healing, and bringing us back to our ultimate question of humanity: how can we live in a society together, have integrity with one another and coexist with our government, if we cannot first do this within our own family system? This story illuminates the truth in that we must face ourselves before we can truly face the world.
We are not alone and our humanity heals from sharing its stories, as Gallaway has done through such eloquent prose and doses of righteous insight. She reflects on the strife in her own family and in America’s history, and melts the bitterness with the tender heart of humanity. In a time of great conflict and division in the world, Chloe Rachel Gallaway eloquently illustrates that this divide stems from within.
This work is one to read if you are ready to feel the full scope of human emotions and the non-duality of simple joy and gratitude that is so needed in our overly critical, fearful, and angry culture. To relive something through the lens of innocence tends to break open the closed parts of our hearts that have come to accept — to settle with abuse, pain, or societal limitations because we feel powerless to them. “The Soulful Child” speaks to the deep family healing that I believe is taking place in American families right now. Gallaway reminds us that love is simple and kind and all too often taken for granted.