1. Archive

Is there a small town in your future?

(ran HH, HL editions)

Moving to a Small Town, by Wanda Urbanska and Frank Levering (Fireside Books-Simon and Schuster, New York), 1996, $12, 320 pages; available in stock or by special order at local bookstores and public libraries.

Reviewed by ROBERT J. BRUSS

Four out of five Americans live in or near a major city. This book is about the other one who lives in a small town (defined as less than 50,000 population). Co-authors Wanda Urbanska and Frank Levering formerly lived in Los Angeles. But about 10 years ago they moved to Mount Airy, N.C., population 7,157, where they operate a fruit orchard, write and teach. This book shares their radical adjustments from one lifestyle to another.

The authors warn readers that small towns are not isolated. "Few small towns remain stuck in the cultural backwaters," the authors emphasize. Today's small towns have access to online computer services, cable TV, satellite dishes and everything city dwellers have, except the city disadvantages.

The entire book is a test for readers who think they might enjoy moving to a small town.

It is both a "how to" guidebook and a book filled with warnings for those who might not fit in. For example, the authors write "Are you an elitist? There's a good place in this world for elitists but it's almost never small-town America."

The authors then warn that small-town snobs will be disdained and disliked.

If you pass the many tests for adjustment to small-town life, the book then explains how to scout a new location. Perhaps the most objective chapter, this one centers on finding a town you'll enjoy. Good and bad signs of progress and disintegration are thoroughly explained. Then the emphasis shifts to finding work, perhaps by changing careers or establishing several businesses.

Not to be overlooked are the costs of moving and the actual move itself.

The authors make valuable suggestions, such as timing the move during the summer if you have school-age children. However, contrary advice is shared about moving during the school year to quickly establish new school friendships with fellow students.

Chapter topics include Are You Right for Small-Town Life?, Scouting a New Location, Recasting Your Career, Evaluating the Costs, Making the Move, and Making a Place for Yourself.

If you're thinking of relocating to a small town, this book will either talk you out of moving or show you how to do it correctly. It is well-researched and well-written in an easy-to-read style. Although it's a bit long, many of the pages are filled with thought-provoking attention-holding questions for the reader.

On my scale of one to 10, this excellent book rates a solid 10.

Robert J. Bruss is a nationally syndicated columnist on real estate. Write to him in care of the Tribune Media Syndicate, c/o the Times, 435 N Michigan Ave., Suite 400, Chicago, IL 60611.