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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

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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 (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #855,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Praise for Running Away to Home:
"In thinking about her suburban life, epitomized by refereeing two arguing kids in a Target shopping cart whilst balancing a Starbucks, Wilson thinks, “if this is the American dream it kinda sucks.” To refocus her family and connect with ancestors, she uproots her Iowa household and relocates to the mountainous, two-road village of Mrkopalj, Croatia. For the next four months, they adjust to the Balkan speed of life, in which rooms scheduled for completion in four days remain unfinished for weeks, meals of meat come with a side of meat, a language of consonants is marked with guttural accents, and they discover what they’d lost in the melee of their breakneck American lives: family. 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"

"Many Americans long for a family trip around the world or a stint abroad. Travel writer Wilson, her architect husband, and their two small children spent a family sabbatical in Mrkopalj, Croatia, an unlikely destination for most folks but the birthplace of Wilson's great-grandparents. Wilson and family arrived in the village speaking little Croatian but soon became part of the community. She relates how they explored the area, tracked down distant relatives, and became immersed in the traditions of daily life. In this village, people grow a year's worth of potatoes, survive on sausage and alcohol, and work together to chop wood, roast sheep, celebrate, and survive. The scars of hardship and wars are ever present in Mrkopalj, and Wilson reflects on how different her life has been thanks to her relatives who came to America. What she finds in Mrkopalj is a firm connection to family: her own, those who left, and those who remained. VERDICT 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.

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Customer Reviews

You will no doubt enjoy living a little vicariously by reading this book.
Jennifer Wilson's "Running Away to Home: our family's journey to Croatia in search of who we are, where we came from and what really matters" is an excellent book.
Susan W
I am recommending this book to all of my friends who are interested in Croatia.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By D_shrink VINE VOICE on October 5, 2011
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Corinne H. Smith VINE VOICE on October 8, 2011
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By PT Cruiser TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This looked like an interesting book when I ordered it but I didn't realize just how captivating it would turn out to be. Jennifer Wilson has a way of describing places, people and situations that draws you in and makes you feel as if you are traveling alongside her and sharing her experiences. I was really touched by her descriptions of the people and the culture in Mrkopalj, Croatia, a small village in the Gorski Kotar region, south of Delnice and some 50 km east of Rijeka. It's pronounced MER-ko-pie, in case you're tangling your tongue in knots trying to figure out how to pronounce it. Sometimes true stories like this can become a little boring, especially when they take place in an area with a pace that is so much slower than what most of us experience in America, but Wilson's colorful descriptions and her sometimes humble openness about her feelings was very engaging and drew me right in. I couldn't wait to sit down with this book each night, when our home was quiet, and experience Mrkopalj with her.

Wilson and her architect husband, Jim and her two children, Sam and Zadie decide to travel to Mrkopalj and live there for four months to see the place where her ancestors came from and to try and find the graves of her great grandparents and see the home and area where they lived. What they discovered was a world very different from their lives in Iowa where their middle class existence seemed extravagant compared to an aging, small village in Croatia. Living arrangements were challenging at first but as you turn the pages you begin to see her family settling in, discovering people that shared their roots and even though they didn't speak Croatian, and only a few people there knew more than a few words of English, they learned that communication goes way beyond simple words.
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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.

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