‘Running Away to Home’: Iowa author’s memoir named book selection

Published: February 9 2014 | 7:00 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:23 am in

When most people have a midlife crisis, they buy a fancy car or a big house. But Jennifer Wilson isn’t most people.

After her family suffered a financial hardship in 2008, Wilson, a travel writer, started taking a hard look at the life they were living in Des Moines and wondering if there could be another way.

“I had just come off of reading ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ a book I really love, but I felt every going-in-search-of-myself book entails leaving your people behind. But I didn’t want to leave my husband and kids behind and do a big soul-searching without them.”

“I just kept on wondering: what would happen if?” So Wilson and her family took the plunge and moved to Mrkopalj, the small Croatian village of Wilson’s ancestors, for four months. The goal: to reconnect as a family and re-establish what was important. She documents her travels in “Running Away to Home,” the Linn Area Reads book for 2014.

“Jim and I always wanted to live overseas, and we thought it was good for us as Iowans to get out and look around, to get out see what everyone else was doing and bring back some fresh ideas.”

Living in her family’s ancestral village afforded Wilson the opportunity to see her life — and her country — from a distance: an experience that proved fruitful for her and her family.

Wilson also wanted her children to remember that they are from a family of immigrants. “I want (my children) to get that global lesson. As I look around, I feel like a lot of people have forgotten: ‘Hey guys, we are a nation of immigrants. What are you doing trying to kick everybody out all of a sudden? What do you think your grandpa was?’”

“I want (my children) to know the definition of an American is pretty damn broad and that the stuff that they learned in the village was cool and it should be part of our lives. There’s no reason to shed everything that came from another country. You’re not proving anything except that you don’t have any weird recipes anymore.”

While it would have been easier to travel on her own, “It was necessary that we all were in this together ... I think when you get super-involved in your work, sometimes the kids feel left out. And sometimes it’s necessary, but I saw this as an opportunity for all of us to go on this adventure together. And that, in itself, would define our lives.”

Linn Area Reads events

  • “Running Away to Home” book discussions: Thursdays in March at 6:30 p.m. (March 6, 13 and 20) at Barnes & Noble Bookseller, 333 Collins Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids. Each discussion will explore one-third of “Running Away to Home.”
  • Family History workshop with Linda Schmidt, owner of Memory Echoes, 2 p.m. March 8 at Hiawatha Public Library, 150 W. Willman St.
  • Recipe Swap: 2 p.m. March 15 at the Marion Public Library, 1095 Sixth Ave. Register at Metrolibrarynetwork.org/linnareareads
  • Jennifer Wilson reading: 3 p.m. March 29 at the Cedar Rapids Public Library, 450 Fifth Ave. SE. Register at

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