Immersed as I have been in thesis research, I haven’t been doing so much actual book reading lately, at least of the kind that can be encapsulated in “booknotes” posts. But while I was on my travels out west in March, I read a couple of books I thought it would be worth mentioning here. And here’s the first.
I found D’Arcy Fallon’s memoir, So Late, So Soon when I did an internet search (yes, using Google) for information related to Lighthouse Ranch, a Christian commune in northern California that one of my oral history narrators mentioned visiting as part of an Oregon Extension field trip in the mid-1970s. Fallon joined the commune after arriving there as a hitch-hiking teenager in the early Seventies, drawn in by the commune’s sense of order and purpose, eventually marrying a fellow communard and remaining with the community for three years, despite the increasing dissonance she felt between her own inclinations and the expectations of the commune’s leaders about her role as a Christian, as a woman, and as a member of the community.
Now a professor of composition and creative nonfiction a the University of Colorado, Fallon tells her story with lyrical compassion; although the depression and oppression she felt in her latter days as part of Lighthouse Ranch is palpable, she also manages to convey a clear understanding of why her younger self might have sought out this type of community, at this point in her life, and the difficult of extricating herself once she had become immersed. The book has brevity (I read it on one leg of my flight from Boston to Portland, Oregon) and offers rich details that give us insight into a particular subculture within the counterculture: that of the Jesus Freaks who adopted much of the outward, material culture of the hippies and melded it with a sometimes dogmatic adherence to Christian doctrine, theology, and religious practice. Anyone with an interest in either the counterculture of the era or in the dynamics of religious communities (communal or otherwise) will likely find it an interesting read.