An account of the author’s transition from wandering spirit to anchored, responsible mother.
The idea of taking a gap year after high school, before entering college, is fairly recent but also increasingly common for students, many of whom take time to travel. Engaging in that most liberal of educations ostensibly provides a rounding to the education received from textbooks and in classrooms. Some students find it suits them so well that a year stretches into two, or, in the case of Vela magazine founder Menkedick, nearly a decade. After receiving a degree in the history of science, the author traveled around the world, teaching English as a second language, working odd jobs, and always seeking new opportunities for travel, “the lines of my journeys tentative, then picking up speed, arching across the planet, pulsing on obscure islands.” Drawing from the experiences and writings of Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, Louise Erdrich, Anne Enright, and other writers, Menkedick erases and redraws parts of herself as she experiences greater self-understanding, weighing values and goals against those of others in her family. She finds that her writing, previously fueled by travel, comes to serve as a stand-in for traveling itself. The natural world around her in rural Ohio provided significant opportunities for reassessment, and she embraced the entirely different journey of pregnancy and motherhood. Menkedick's writing is insightful and evocative, drawing on all the senses, and readers will be impressed by the sense of place in her writing, even while she's laboring to discern the meaning in her experience.
Menkedick's driving question is to figure out “whether returning home signifies growing up or giving up or both—and if it’s both, what exactly we want to give up in exchange for what.” The magic of this book is that she makes so personal a question so easily accessible to readers.