On the Road: Getting Over it By Getting Away

On the Road: Getting Over it By Getting Away

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Cheryl Strayed’s memoir “Wild” became a sensation, joining a tradition of books about the lure of adventure as consolation after difficult turns in life’s journey. We take a closer look.

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    1. Wild

    Cheryl Strayed was 22 when her life fell apart. In her memoir, “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,” she tells how an 1,100-mile through-hike on the Pacific Crest Trail helped her regain her path. Her prose raises the bar for books about young women (and men) embarking on a quest to pick up the pieces of their lives after suffering through tragedy, heartbreak or other hardship. But Strayed’s work is just a recent addition to a long line of such titles.

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    2. Eat, Pray, Love

    The 2006 memoir from Elizabeth Gilbert, then a 31-year-old recent divorcee journeying through Italy, India and Bali, pretty much exploded the form, engendering a wildly enthusiastic response from readers. In it, the GQ writer-at-large wanders through the European country sampling loads of pizza and pasta, spends time in the subcontinent studying with a yogi and locates love on a tropical island, rediscovering a visceral connection to her life along the way.

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    3. Still Life with Chickens

    Newly divorced Catherine Goldhammer, her 12-year-old daughter, and six chicks share a New England fixer-upper in this story of discovering a new life. The author, a poet by trade, focuses on the important things—keeping her child happy, her new animals alive and her home intact—while building a new life for herself and her family.

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    4. A Year by the Sea

    Joan Anderson successfully raised her children and watched them leave the house, then felt herself drifting from her husband. The writer decided to spend a year living alone in her family’s Cape Cod house, working as a fishmonger and clam digger to supplement her income. During the self-imposed exile from her previous existence, Anderson recalibrates her priorities and comes to understand herself.

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    5. Contents May Have Shifted

    Pam Houston’s novel relies upon the observations and experiences of the bold yet aimless protagonist who seeks love all over the world. Narrator ‘Pam’ bounces from Madison, Wisconsin, to Bhutan, and various points in between, jumping on yet another plane when she feels pulled to a new location or is pushed out of her current one.

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    6. The Man Who Quit Money

    Daniel Suelo stopped using money in 2000. Mark Sundeen tells the story of the radical who lives a happy life in the Utah canyonlands, existing far beyond the boundaries of normal convention. In telling the story, Sundeen neither puts Suelo onto a pedestal nor knocks him down, choosing instead to let the tale unfold and the reader draw their own conclusions.

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