WON Landing Page March 2022

‘We Were an Island’ defines lifestyle simplification

Outdoor Book Review

If you’ve ever wanted to run away, get away from it, shuck it all, or simplify, simplify, simplify, you’ll enjoy reading “We Were an Island: The Maine Life of Art and Nan Kellam,” by Peter P. Blanchard III.

Blanchard tells the true-life story of Art and Nan Kellam, a highly educated, well-connected couple who decided to withdraw from the “busy, technology-infused” life of the late of 1940s and move to an island off the coast of Maine. It is fitting they moved to an island, for they desired to make ‘an island of themselves’, apart from other people and society at large. While living in California, Art worked as an engineer for Lockheed and the Kellams spent 14 years meticulously planning and executing their escape from the mainstream, arriving at a time and place so simple and different from their life in California that it had no running water, electricity or plumbing. With  forethought, the couple undertook building a shelter and a life by hand, piece by piece, board by board, season after season.

Blanchard’s narrative blends seamlessly with Nan’s notes and journal entries. The black and white photos taken in the 1940s and ’50s add to the mystique a life of seclusion, while David Graham’s modern day color photos highlight the warm patina and pride of self- sufficiency. I especially liked his photo of the woodland path, which captures both the lush natural resources of the island and the Kellam’s seclusion.

Art Kellum died in 1985. Nan continued to live on the island for two years after his death, surrounded and comforted by friends of their 36 years on the island, and as recorded in her journal, by Art’s ghost.

Order “We Were an Island: The Maine Life of Art and Nan Kellam” in hardcover at Amazon. Cost: $18.48.

  • About Traci Schauf

    Traci Schauf ia a blogger, a blonde, a bookphile and outdoor obsessed. She contributes "The Happy Camper" to The WON. She also hosts her own daily blogs about her family and outdoor life.