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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 ·  696 ratings  ·  158 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 nee
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by St. Martin's Press
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3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  696 ratings  ·  158 reviews

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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
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 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
Oct 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to bookczuk 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
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!"
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.
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.
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.
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 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."
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.
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
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.
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.
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
As an American of Croatian descent this book made so many connections !
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.
Terri M.
Feb 14, 2014 rated it liked it
This year the Linn Area Reads program chose Running Away to Home: Our Family's Journey to Croatia in Search of Who We Are, Where We Came from and What Really Matters by Jennifer Wilson. I have never read one of the Linn Area Reads book before and was excited when I learned of their choice this year.

Before I dive into my review, I wanted to share a little bit about the Linn Area Reads program. Founded in 2003, the project is sponsored by the Metro Library Network and Barnes & Noble. A book
Luanne Ollivier
Nov 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Jennifer Wilson and her husband Jim have a good life in Des Moines, Iowa. Two great kids, careers, house, friends - the American Dream. But they had another dream as well - " to escape to the place where we could live simply with our kids." But where could that be? Jennifer's family was originally from Croatia. And that, they decide, is where they will escape to for a year. Jennifer does a short reconnaissance mission in her ancestral hometown of Mrkopalj, returns to the US and less than a year ...more
Oct 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: r-lt
Review first published on my blog:

Running Away to Home is part travel journal, part history book, and part family memoir. The author, Jennifer Wilson, is a travel writer from Des Moines, Iowa. One summer she, her husband, and their two children move to the village Markopalj in Croatia. The intent is for Jennifer to research her Croatian ancestors / genealogy and to experience a lifestyle very different from theirs. The family spends several months living
Oct 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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. The author is a travel writer, caught up in the trappings of a suburban lifestyle - too much emphasis on material things, and a vague sense of dissatisfaction. She and her architect husband, Jim, live in Des Moines, Iowa with their two young children 7 yr old Sam and 4 year old Zadie. They are living "the good life"..or are they? As M ...more
May 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
How about that? A story of an American family moving to Croatia? :-) The circumstances were a bit different - the writer (and her husband and two small children went in search of learning more about her ancestors. They did it without the help of a 3rd party (i.e.: military for us), immersed themselves in a rural town, and really "lived" Croatia for a year. They did what a lot of people dream of doing - taking a year off from life and moving abroad. They did it when they both had stable jobs and ...more
Feb 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It is about a Des Moines couple Jennifer Wilson and Jim Hoff and their two young children who spent a year in Coatia searching for Jennifer's family roots. They lived part of the year in the small town that Jennifer's great grandparents left to go to America. She found their names in the church book, met some relatives, found some graves. Her writing is very vivid. She makes a living as a travel writer. I could picture the small town, the top floor of the house where ...more
Melanie Coombes
Nov 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was a well written travel memoir of the author's quest to discover her family ancestry in the heart of Croatia. Her husband and two small children accompany her for one year to discover where they came from, who they are and what really matters.
I really liked this book. Jennifer writes with humor and honesty. One day they are living the "american dream" in Iowa, but feeling like they are losing themselves in the mad rush of work, school and constant activities. Seemingly on an impulse, they
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I first heard about this book during an interview with Jennifer Wilson on Rick Steves podcast. Being a mom who misses the freedom I had to travel before having kids (even though we still do travel a lot as a family, it's not the same), I always toy with idea of packing up the family for a year abroad - and coincidentally I also spend a lot of time wishing/planning a trip to Croatia, the one place I haven't been but desperately want to visit. Being half-Croatian, I've read a lot about the country ...more
Feb 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, nonfiction
Running Away to Home is February's selection for the Reading to Know book club. It's nice to read a book about a country of the world I previously knew nothing about. I still don't feel like I have a good grasp on Croatia, but the book did illuminate the daily life of a small town in Croatia. It was interesting to see how the family adjusted to living in a small rural town where they didn't speak the language.

I would have loved to see pictures. I also wanted to know what Jim learned while he wa
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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
“Just find someone who can stamp your papers as many times as possible. Stamp it all, with any stamp you can find. It doesn’t matter what type of stamp it is.” 0 likes
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