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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
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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

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  784 ratings  ·  171 reviews
A middle class, Midwestern family in search of meaning uproot themselves and move to their ancestral village in Croatia

"We can look at this in two ways," Jim wrote, always the pragmatist. "We can panic and scrap the whole idea. Or we can take this as a sign. They're saying the economy is going to get worse before it gets better. Maybe this is the kick in the pants we n
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by St. Martin's Press
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  784 ratings  ·  171 reviews

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Start your review of Running Away to Home: Our Family's Journey to Croatia in Search of Who We Are, Where We Came From, and What Really Matters
Goodreads giveaway. The book is about the author's time spent in Croatia with her husband and two young children as she researched her ancestors and looked for remaining family. I was interested in this book because friends and I have talked about vacationing in Croatia. The author is a travel writer by trade and has traveled extensively so she was expecting this year long trip to run fairly smoothly.

Jennifer decides to take a two week trip ahead of her family to scope things out, get the lay o
Oct 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book more, and debated giving it 3 stars, but I really struggled getting through this otherwise easy read. I think the reasons for this are 1) told as a narrative, Wilson never really makes the other people in this story more than appendages to her account. Even her immediate family seem to be afterthoughts, so I didn't feel connected to any of them. At the same time I didn't ever really feel connected to her journey either. 2) For a travel writer and someone I expected to ...more
Dec 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book was a pleasure to read. Jennifer and her husband decided to take their two kids and leave their home in Iowa to move to Croatia for a year so she can research her ancestors. Their adventure helps them grow closer as a family and it reminded them of the truly important things in life.

I love travel writing, and Jennifer's writing style was very warm, funny and introspective. Plus, you can't help but learn some Croatian words. Zivjeli!

Oct 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
I had been a fool to think that this trip was only about my family. It had been about the whole family-those who left, those who stayed, and all those connective tissues on either side of the journey my great-grandparents made. The journey that began with their parents. Mrkopalj had needed to tell its far-flung family its difficult story.

For Jennifer Wilson (and her family, Jim her husband, Zadie her daughter, and Sam her son) an idea born out of a deep inner reflection (Is this the American Dr
Jan 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
There was so much about this book that spoke to me. I was reading it during December, a time of year that typically finds me struggling to find good balance. There are so many pressures for our family's time and resources during this season that I find myself just wanting to drive our family to a little cabin in the woods where we can light a fire and play board games for hours on end. So in this way, I can relate to the author's desire to simplify her life-leave the soccer practices and busines ...more
Oct 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Amy by: Library Thing
The other day, I received a message from the author of this book, saying she hoped I was enjoying it and that she forward to my review. Now, try as I might, my answer to her seems the place to start my review:
"There are some absolutely marvelous moments you've written, and I have had such obvious enjoyment reading that my husband is waiting to read it as soon as he can. I'm amazed you went with such little preparation about the history and genealogy, but think that perhaps that opened you up to
Carol Bakker
I was finding gratitude for what I had, rather than a low simmer of anguish over what I didn't.

I was inclined to like this book before I started reading. Travel memoirs are one of my favorite genres, and my brother-in-law is the son of Croatian immigrants. I enjoyed reading about the joys and frustrations of adapting to a different culture.

People stared at us.
We stared back.
Something struck me during all this staring.
There wasn't anything menacing about it.
We were just getting used to each oth
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
With my kids increasingly tolerant of Mom’s reading time, I’ve been able to devour quite a few stories recently. Jennifer Wilson’s Running Away to Home is easily my favorite of the lot — the most engaging and delightful book I’ve read in ages.

It certainly helps that I relate deeply to Jennifer: writer, wife, and mom to two young kids — a son and daughter — who, along with her husband Jim, realized that the rat-race life in suburbia was leading to stuff, but little satisfaction. Or happiness.

Dec 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed Jennifer Wilson's writing. Being an Iowan who has also been to Croatia, I appreciated what she and her family experienced. Many times found myself laughing aloud! "Is joke. Is Croatian joke!" ...more
Leah Noble
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I loved the meandering story, that went along one day at a time. Loved the descriptions of Croatian food, the words in a new language, the sense of a place I do not know. Couldn't always keep track of all the townspeople and characters but that was OK. ...more
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the kind of memoir that you hardly notice you are reading: this is because you instantly feel immersed in the story. Wilson has such a delicate touch with her use of details, so that reading is almost like watching the story unfold out your own personal, third-story dorm window.

One of my favorite parts of the execution of this story is the use of time: the way the author bends and stretches the four-month time period of their stay to convey her own experiences with that time: so that the
Feb 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What a terrific, inspiring and sometimes heart-breaking journey of a story! There was so much in this book I could relate to and was inspired by. Ms. Wilson is an incredibly gifted writer to convey the emotions and details so many of us can visualize and empathize with. For us as a military family, we are always believers that "home is always where the family is." It's not a place, or a house, but instead is the dependence and love of your family.

Being from central Iowa as well--and someone tha
Jul 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Though I know this family personally, even strangers won't be able to resist their charms as each character unfolds on the page. I connected immediately with Jen's desire for something more at a certain point in her life. Something more for her and for her family. Told with a journalist's curiosity and a reporter's skill, the story of the foursome's adventure to connect with Jen's ancestors is packed with wit, surprise, and discovery. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a passenge ...more
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
I can finally understand my friend's jokes about her Croation in-laws! I really enjoyed reading about the author's struggles and joys in adapting to a different culture and stripping her family's life down to the core of what's important. It also made me really wonder for the first time what it was that drove my own ancestors to leave Germany, France, England, Canada... and what that has meant for me and this nation of immigrants. ...more
Jan 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a delightful book. I enjoyed tagging along on Jennifer Wilson's journey to her ancestral village in Croatia, learning some Croatian words, meeting many quirky characters along the way and seeing how the experienced changed the author and her family. This is a warm, funny memoir with beautiful writing. ...more
Jun 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My rating is closer to a 3 1/2. I enjoyed this book but got a little long at the end.
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Anyone who's ever daydreamed of trading a year off to live another life elsewhere will enjoy this. Especially if that dream is of a simpler life.

While I found the history and descriptions of Croatia interesting, having visited there, I was quite absorbed in thinking about the internal adjustment you'd have, especially with a young family of 4 and 5 suitcases of stuff to last the year. Living in the village was culture shock, especially for the author, who says that in the U.S., "Jim & I rarely s
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Enjoyable book. Author has an engaging, humorous style. I was never bored reading it, but it wasn't a page turner--kind of book you can put down for a few days then pick back up. Made you think about American life and what we have and don't have in comparison to Croatia. I was struck by how friendly and accepting the people were--how Jennifer's family got to know so many people and became part of the community so quickly. Was it because of the country, because it was a small town or both? I wond ...more
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
As is the case with many books, particularly memoirs, I liked what the author was trying to do much more than I liked the actual book. I believe that every story deserves to be told, but whether every story should be published is a different story. I'm a jaded reader regarding memoir; I'm tired of the navel-gazing and the gimmicky nature of them. I appreciated the people profiled, but I think I would have preferred to read a history of Croatia or a 2nd-person narrative. ...more
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A husband and wife from Iowa decide to suspend their usual American life for time living in her ancestral, small-town Croatian village. Initially lacking much knowledge of her European family circumstances, the family of four immerses themselves in this close knit community.

Fun desciptions of some local characters and the challenges of understanding your family's past. Made me want to take the same journey, but to my "homelands."
Helen Kollin Fichtel
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
This could have been so much better. Unfortunately, Jennifer Wilson, while a good descriptive writer, is not a very entertaining one. Combined with the fact that actually nothing interesting happened during the family's stay in Mrkopalj, it made for a rather boring book. It wasn't awful, some of her reflections and thoughts on family, roots and connections were worth reading.
I can see that the experience was life changing for her and her family, but it didn't make for a story worth telling.
Nov 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
We all think about running away at times. We imagine leaving the stresses and obligations of daily life and embarking on a life enhancing adventure. It's doubtful, though, that Croatia tops the list of escapes for most people. Yet Jennifer Wilson, along with her husband and their two young children, left the comforts of home in Des Moines, Iowa, to take up temporary residence in Mrkopalj (MER-ko-pie), the mountain village in northwestern Croatia from which her maternal great-grandparents emigrat ...more
Catherine Kapphahn
Sep 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
It was so interesting to come across this book and see it takes place in
my Croatian mom's grandmother's village! On Jennifer Wilson's family
tree, in the front of the book, there were names that my mom's family has.
I enjoyed spending time in the village of Mrkoplj throughout the book and hope to go there for real one day.
Mark Harris
Aug 11, 2017 rated it liked it
As a someone who, like the author, had grandparents from Croatia and who researches family history, this book's subject was appealing. The author is a poor genealogist but a good writer. There's humor here, especially in the early chapters. Enjoyable. ...more
Oct 15, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
I wanted to like this book more and was excited about reading about Croatia. However, it was really more of a book about the author’s family. I found myself skimming the second half of the book, just trying to get through it quickly. It was sort of boring.
radenka dragas
Jun 29, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Poor book

Author mocked Croatian people ,their way of living, their English .......
She didn't travel to learn about the place. She traveled to show herself, her "great" American life , her "soft Iowa body" .....
Maria Magdalena
Feb 24, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read about a US family searching for the life of her ancestors in Croatia. Really enjoyed the detailed entries about every day life in the small village of Mrkopalj. Brought home again that you can live good with less.
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book for personal reasons - Croatian words and foods brought back lots of memories from childhood.
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
As an American of Croatian descent this book made so many connections !
Elana Lanzetta
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Read this book before our trip to Croatia. Interesting insight into the people and country but now that I've returned I'd like to revisit it to see if it still rings true. ...more
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What about Mrkopalj sucked you in? 2 20 Aug 11, 2012 11:22AM  

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Jennifer Wilson is a reporter and editor who's worked for Esquire, National Geographic Traveler, No Depression, Traditional Home, Gourmet and many other national magazines and newspapers.

RUNNING AWAY TO HOME (St. Martin's Press) is about the time her family returned to live in the Croatian mountain village of her ancestors. It was chosen as Best Nonfiction Book in 2012 by the American Society of

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