Book Review: A Way Home :

A Way Home: Building a New Life and a Strawbale House in Central Otago - One Woman's Inspirational Story.

By Jillian Sullivan

Book Review by Build me. Editor, Hana Deavoll


The building story of The Strawbale Cottage – one of our popular featured NZ Homes on Build me. – is now available in a book. A Way Home, written by Jillian Sullivan, was published by Potton and Burton last week. It’s a book to inspire hands on involvement with building and to encourage anyone who sets out on a project bigger than they can imagine.

I was at the Central Otago launch and heard acclaimed writer Joy Cowley, Poet  Brian Turner and publisher Robbie Burton speak passionately about the book.

It’s the story of building – from footings to lime plaster – and yet, as Joy Cowley pointed out, it’s so much more. It’s the story of building a community, of building a new life and friendships along with stacking strawbales or making earth plaster.

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Cover photo by Graham Sydney


What do you do when life as you know it has ended and you have the chance of a new life? One way to deal with these unasked for opportunities is to go somewhere you’ve been drawn to and help build a house with your own hands. This is what Jillian did, and her book, which began as a book for would be strawbale builders, has become a record of one person’s way of finding a new life and a new community. The story could stand as a metaphor for anything you choose to do. There’s always a journey, Jillian said, but once you are deeply in a project, things start coming together in a way that you didn’t imagine or expect. Things as instant as the farmer down the road bringing baling twine when you most need it, or a stranger turning up with the skills and encouragement needed on bale-raising day. For as Jillian displays in her book, when you commit to that which you truly want to do, all sorts of help arrives. 



A Way Home is a beautiful and inspiring book, full of photographs of the building journey, a feast of characters and landscape, observations on events of the past and how they impact on the present, and reflections on the meaning of home. This book was a pleasure to read, and will appeal to readers of all ages. It will be particularly inspiring to anyone embarking on their own building journey (not just straw), and will urge you to contribute in some way to your build, however small.

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Above: A page layout from the book, which is divided into four parts; Wood, Straw, Earth, Lime


Where to buy?

A Way Home is available from all good book stores, as well as the Potton and Burton website. Build me. has two copies of the book to give away, which you can enter to win on our Facebook page here. A perfect gift for would new home builders, those starting out on building a new life, or simply an excellent summer read for yourself.


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NZ Homes > Strawbale Cottage, Central Otago


Jillian Sullivan is the author of eleven other books, and has published novels, short stories, a collection of poetry and a book on the creative process, A Guide to Creating. She teaches writing in New Zealand, and in America each year for the Highlights Foundation. Her awards include The Highlights Fiction Award in America, and the Kathleen Grattan Prize for poetry. She has five children and eight grandchildren, many of whom were able to help with the building of her strawbale house.