book review: Wanderlust by Elisabeth Eaves

Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five ContinentsThe basics: This passage from the introduction sums it up beautifully: "I'd woken up at the age of thirty-four to realize that I wanted to go home, only to discover that I had no idea where that was. Wanderlust, the very strong or irresistible impulse to travel, is adopted untouched from the German, presumably because it couldn't be improved upon."

My thoughts: Wanderlust started strong for me. The introduction was intriguing. A thirty-four-year-old with no sense of home? With a few different life decision, I could have easily become that. (I'm thankful to now believe I have many homes rather than none, but it took me some time to feel that way.) I was eager to see Elisabeth's journey from the beginning.

The action begins when she's a teenager in suburban Vancouver feeling restless. It was fascinating to see travel form her eyes. I had the travel bug early too, but I yearned for Europe, Australia, and big cities. I wanted the to find the universality of city-life. Eaves yearned for Egypt, Pakistan and places as different as possible. To that end, her story was intriguing because it was so different. It stems beyond pure wanderlust. Seeking out life in a conservative country as a young woman does not appeal to me. I'm content to read about the experiences of others or watch films documenting it.

Wanderlust is divided into three chronological sections. I enjoyed the first one most. I found Eaves to be most thoughtful when thinking of her teen and college years. She offered insight and was quite relatable. As her story moves forward, however, I found myself caring less. The story lost some of its unique edge. There were men whose names blend together. There were places that blend together. Although there were some highlights, I cared more about Eaves and the places she visited than the men she slept with along the way.

I was hoping for some sort of resolution or conclusion at the end. The introduction was strong, and I felt I was with Eaves on her journey. The ending felt abrupt. For such a contemplative memoir, it deserved a narrative arc. Even a brief "where I am now" would have helped provide some closure. If Eaves still feels wanderlust and doesn't have closure, I wish the conclusion would have said so.

Favorite passage: "There's always a parallel story. The paths not taken go on in our heads."

The verdict: Despite a strong start, the lack of conclusion and narrative arc prevented me from loving this one in its entirety. Eaves is a talented writer with nice observations, but a moment of reflection at the end would have helped it feel like it was the end.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Length: 304 pages
Publication date: May 24, 2011 (paperback)
Source: Publisher, via TLC Book Tours

Check out the full tour schedule to see what others thought.

Find out more about Elisabeth. She's on Twitter, Tumblr and has a website.

Buy Wanderlust from Amazon (Kindle version) or an independent bookstore.

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  1. It always irks me when a book starts off strong, and slowly goes downhill until the end. It does sound like this book had unrealized potential and I am sorry that it wasn't a stellar read for you. I do have to admit that the premise sounds interesting, as I am another one who loves to travel and wonders about the meaning of home in my life. Great review on this one. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. I agree with you. I related most to her teen and college years the most. Beyond that, I felt the story drift a little.

  3. I was afraid to read this for that very reason...I like lots of travel in my travel memoirs. Not so keen about reading about who she slept with.

  4. I found it really interesting that Eaves started off with Egypt and Yemen (if you don't count Spain). I'd like to travel to less touristy/more difficult locations, but I'm working up to it - I wouldn't just dive in! I had to give her props for being so gutsy. I would've liked to see more of that spirit in the rest of the book!

  5. I'm sorry this one didn't have the resolution you were hoping for, but I'm glad you enjoyed the beginning of the book. Thanks for being on the tour!


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