'Running Away to Home'
Author: Jennifer Wilson
Published: St. Martin's Griffin; Oct. 2012
Source: LibraryThing EarlyReviewers
Synopsis: Jen, her architect husband, Jim, and their two children had been living the typical soccer- and ballet-practice life in the most Middle American of places: Des Moines, Iowa. They overindulged themselves and their kids, and as a family they were losing one another in the rush of work, school, and activities. One day, Jen and her husband looked at each other–both holding their Starbucks coffee as they headed out to their SUV in the mall parking lot, while the kids complained about the inferiority of the toys they just got–and asked themselves: "Is this the American dream? Because if it is, it sort of sucks."
Jim and Jen had always dreamed of taking a family sabbatical in another country, so when they lost half their savings in the stock-market crash, it seemed like just a crazy enough time to do it. High on wanderlust, they left the troubled landscape of contemporary America for the Croatian mountain village of Mrkopalj, the land of Jennifer's ancestors. It was a village that seemed hermetically sealed for the last one hundred years, with a population of eight hundred (mostly drunken) residents and a herd of sheep milling around the post office. For several months they lived like locals, from milking the neighbor's cows to eating roasted pig on a spit to desperately seeking the village recipe for bootleg liquor. As the Wilson-Hoff family struggled to stay sane (and warm), what they found was much deeper and bigger than themselves.
My Take: I seem to be a little intrigued lately by the concept of packing up your family and moving overseas for one year. One year doesn't seem so long after all. It's a finite amount of time, yet enough time to really get engrossed in a destination.
My latest armchair travel read was another highly engrossing memoir of a family packing it all up and leaving America to see what more is out there in this big old world. In Running Away to Home, Jennifer is the matriarch and her ancestors are from Croatia. When the economy crashed a few years ago her and her husband, Jim, found themselves discussing how their life had perhaps become too materialistic overtime. With two kids and busy lives, they found that their days were filled with endless shopping and the need to fill their house with more, more, more, yet they were never really satisfied and never felt like the had the time to truly spend with each other.
Coupled with the need to stop this, was Jennifer's want to find her roots. She was a travel writer and finagles an article that sends her to Croatia. It's enough to whet her appetite and her husband whole-heartedly supports the plan of taking a sabbatical in order to spend more time with his family and get a little more back to the land in Croatia.
Jen's ancestors are from the small Croatian town of Mrkopalj. This is a town of maybe 1,000 people full of farmers, loggers, heavy drinkers, and happy people. When the Wilsons arrive with their two small children in tow they still aren't really sure what they have gotten themselves into.
What ensues is one of the sweetest, most laugh out loud, heartwarming stories I have read in a long time. Jim instantly feels welcomed into the bosom of this town. Jen, on the other hand, has a harder time making her way. The children, in a similar fashion, have some bumps and starts but then soon grow to have a blast with the freedom this small town gives them. The characters you meet in Mrkopalj can't help but make you smile and the whole story is so inspiring, it made me want to pack up and move my family abroad to a small town too.
Honestly, I can't recommend Running Away to Home enough. Just read it!
Cover Lust: This cover is perfect because I am pretty sure this is Wilson's family out picking flowers for tea in Mrkopalj.