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Running Away to Home: Our Family's Journey to Croatia in Search of Who We Are, Where We Came From, and What Really Matters Hardcover – October 11, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Wilson's memoir isn't so much about assimilating to Croatian culture as it is about finding family and, therefore, acceptance in unlikely places. A fun-filled, revealing peek into the Croatian countryside nevertheless, it will be enjoyed by travelogue lovers and admirers of Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence (1989) and Frances Maye's Under the Tuscan Sun (1996).” ―Katharine Frank, Booklist

“This thoughtful, amusing tale reads like a novel and will have wide appeal.” ―Melissa Stearns, Franklin Pierce Univ. Lib., Rindge, NH, Library Journal

“The author's voice is consistently infused with an energetic spunkiness, complimented with passages of sage introspection…[an] appealing travelogue of discovery and renewal.” ―Kirkus Book Reviews

“In her funny and heartfelt memoir, she packs up her husband and two young children from Des Moines, Iowa, with the plan to live a simpler, more connected life in the ancestral home in Croatia and to learn about her immigrant story.” ―Publisher's Weekly

Running Away to Home is a sweet journey of reconnection. Wilson and her family move from Big Box America to her ancestral home in Croatia, and in the process become that most precious of things, the truly connected family.” ―Janine Latus, New York Times bestselling author of If I Am Missing or Dead: A Sister's Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation

“Jennifer Wilson travels and writes with heart and pluck. With her husband and kids in tow, she pushes past all her comfort zone and shows us that adventure is a worthy and rewarding family pursuit. Filled with memorable characters and lovely epiphanies, her tale inspires us to rethink how we define `family' and `home.' ” ―Jeannie Ralston, author of The Unlikely Lavender Queen: A Memoir of Unexpected Blossoming

“I like the heart and good humor of Jennifer Wilson: she has given us a book about the ways sense of place is heightened by displacement and the most enlightening scraps of history must be coaxed from the darkest corners.” ―Michael Perry, author of Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time

About the Author

JENNIFER WILSON is an award-winning writer who has chronicled her travels, both epic and around the corner, in National Geographic Traveler, Gourmet, Esquire, Midwest Living, Better Homes & Gardens, Frommer's Budget Travel, Parents, and Disney Family Fun. Running Away to Home was awarded Best Nonfiction Book of 2011 by the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (October 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312598955
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312598952
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #427,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Jennifer Wilson was born in Colfax, Iowa. She's been a rock writer (favorite interview: Tom Jones), reporter (favorite interview: Thom Jones), high school English teacher, Big Band radio DJ, and newspaper editor. Her work has appeared in Esquire, National Geographic Traveler, Gourmet, NPR's All Things Considered, Better Homes & Gardens, No Depression, Traditional Home and many others. Running Away to Home received Best Nonfiction Book of 2011 from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. www.jennifer-wilson.com.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Travel writer and native Iowan Jennifer Wilson was prompted by the death of a relative to explore part of her maternal ancestry. One hundred years ago, her great-grandparents Valentin Radosevic and Jelena Iskra immigrated to Iowa from Mrkopalj, Croatia. Since no living family members knew much about the old folks or the old homeland, it seemed to be a no-brainer that the writer/reporter of the bunch could ferret out all of the personal answers that she craved. She took off on an early reconnaissance mission to Croatia.

As the parents of two small children, Jennifer and her husband Jim Hoff were simultaneously beginning to sour on the daily demands of contemporary American life. They decided (sight unseen) to take enough time off from their regular lives to immerse their family in Mrkopalj for four months. Temporarily relocating to the Radosevic-Iskra hometown would bring them closer to understanding their roots, and would perhaps help them return to an old-fashioned, simpler existence.

As follows with most fish-out-of-water stories, the return "home" was a challenging one. Living arrangements didn't pan out as expected. The meat on the dinner table came from real-life animals on the nearby farms or from the woods, the children quickly learned. The main occupations of many of the village adults appeared to be drinking and smoking. Communication in English, Croatian, or a hybrid "Croglish" with the residents was sporadic at best. The irony of this true tale is that veteran traveler Jennifer was the one in the family who had the most difficulties acclimating to the unfamiliar surroundings. Gradually she was able to join the others in appreciating the "extravagance of simplicity" found in mountainous and very rural Mrkopalj. It accepted her in return.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Running Away to Home is the story of a Croatian-American woman and the months that she spent in her family's ancestral village. The book is interesting to any American up to a point, regardless of heritage, because with just a few exceptions, our families are all from "someplace else", and I imagine we've all wondered about what it would be like to go to the towns our immigrant ancestors left.

In this case, the author's grandparents left the town, and when she returned to it, no one from her extended family remained there, but she decided to move their for several months, bringing along her kids and her non-Croatian husband.

And then, the whining commences.

I don't want to be harsh, but really, that's what I get out of this. She's almost never happy about anything in her visit, and things almost never seem to go right. Time after time, we see her kids and her husband connecting with the locals, but she keeps her distance throughout the bulk of the book, and while in the end, she does find relations, it's not satisfying for me as a reader, and I get the sense that it's less than satisfying to her as well, despite a deep emotional reaction she describes.

I know that so many people have found this book to be great - look at all those 4 and 5 star reviews - and I know I'm not necessarily its target audience (Male, Irish-German, not Female Croatian Descent), but I shared the book with a friend of mine who IS a Croatian American woman, and she found it very hard to enjoy the book as well.

Bottom line? Reading this book is like having to listen to someone tell you about a bad vacation trip, in minute detail, for much longer than you'd really rather like to hear. I HATE to have to write a negative review, but it just isn't for me.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The author along with her two kids and husband take a year off from their regular routine in Des Moines, Iowa and move to Croatia for that year to find the author's maternal ancestors and find her roots for that side of her family.

The narrative involves life in the small town of Mrkopalj, Croatia located in the mountainous foothills about an hour drive from the Adriatic Sea. The author does a fine job of weaving her family's history into the general history of the country and the hundreds of years of war of the people of Croatia and much of what used to be called Yugoslavia. She does get emotional in the telling of the story at times; but that simply made the story come alive. Her overall account was generally very humorous in a self-deprecating manner while still maintaining an intelligent patois that kept one's interested in continuing with her adventure.

An example of some of the self-deprecating humorous lines are: "My olive-skinned mom rarely mentioned she was descended from thick accented immigrants with full mustaches on both the men and women." At another point in which she was discussing some magazine articles. "Articles like that are written by interns in New York, barely old enough to vote, who will conduct their entire adulthood sleeping around like Tri Delts."

In another place in describing the town or village of MRKOPALJ, the author said, "There was very little space, but it lived bigger than it was." A descriptive clause I thought was quite poignant. She later writes, "Who knew how long our togetherness would last. Children were born to leave. Parents were born to make sure they were prepared when they did." And then within the last few pages of the book she wrote, "I had been a fool to think this trip was only about my family.
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