September 2019

If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Now

By Christopher Ingraham
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As a rural northerner, I was skeptical heading into Christopher Ingraham’s memoir of moving his family from Ellicott City, Maryland, to Red Lake Falls, Minnesota. I could see why he did it—Ingraham, his wife and their twin toddlers lived in a 952-square-foot row house, the only place they could afford and still get Ingraham to his job at The Washington Post each day, a commute that took 90 minutes if he was very, very lucky. Who wouldn’t want to trade that in for acres of open land, a home-based office and ridiculously friendly neighbors? Still, D.C. to Minnesota? 

Ingraham wasn’t a true believer either when he first heard of Red Lake Falls. As a data reporter for the Post, he’d discovered that Red Lake County was rated the ugliest county among some 3,000 counties surveyed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He wrote his headline—“The absolute worst place to live in America is (drumroll please) . . . Red Lake County, Minnesota”—and the responses poured in, many from angry but unfailingly polite residents of the maligned county. It just wasn’t true, they said. He should come see for himself, they said. So he did.

If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Now chronicles what Ingraham found—not only the charming parts, like running along the frozen river with sled dogs and beating the locals at ice fishing, but also the difficulties, such as when the family needed to consult an autism specialist about one of their sons. In Maryland, the nearest E.R. or urgent care facility was a mere three miles from their front door; in Red Lake Falls, it was 16 miles away. 

Even through the challenges, Ingraham mostly writes fondly of his new home, while poking gentle fun at his citified self as he settles in to what turns out to be the absolute best place to live in America, for his family.

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