NEWS AND REVIEWS
Publications featuring Running Away to Home
Travel writer and native Iowan Jennifer Wilson was prompted by the death of a relative to explore part of her maternal ancestry. One hundred years ago, her great-grandparents Valentin Radosevic and Jelena Iskra immigrated to Iowa from Mrkopalj, Croatia. Since no living family members knew much about the old folks or the old homeland, it seemed to be a no-brainer that the writer/reporter of the bunch could ferret out all of the personal answers that she craved. She took off on an early reconnaissance mission to Croatia and later, Wilson and her husband and two children lived in Mrkopalj for four months. The result is the book, “Running Away to Home.” (St. Martin’s Press). We’ll speak with Wilson this hour.
In Des Moines, Iowa, travel writer Wilson and her architect husband Jim purposefully led what they imagined to be the idyllic, comfortable “American Dream,” but both harbored feelings of disenchantment and restlessness. When Wilson’s great-aunt, Sister Mary Paula, died in 2008, inside a box of her personal papers the author discovered a handwritten history of the nun’s parents’ life in sparsely populated backwoods Mrkopalj, Croatia. Despite the plummeting stock market depleting half of their collective savings, the opportunity presented itself for both Wilson and her husband to realize a dream of not only living overseas, but reconnecting with her maternal Croatian ancestry and the village inhabited by her great-grandparents. After an eye-opening dry-run to desolate “one-chicken town” Mrkopalj using her press credentials, it then took some delicate finagling with her two children to finally embark the family on an intrepid one-year stay in the mountainous Croation “Motherland.” Expected culture-clash calamity ensued: The rooms they’d rented were stuck in mid-construction, language barriers with native Croats often stymied them and the drinking habits of the locals became troublesome. Eventually, Wilson developed a deeper genealogical understanding and a greater appreciation of her heritage. The author’s voice is consistently infused with an energetic spunkiness, complimented with passages of sage introspection. Though her adventures had patches of both good and not-so-good, Wilson still believes her family’s grand jaunt abroad was a risky yet overwhelmingly beneficial move that trumped spending “the rest of our days stagnating on a couch in middle America.”
Armchair travelers will find vicarious thrills in Wilson’s long-winded yet appealing travelogue of discovery and renewal.
News and Reviews of Water
Water quality is certainly an important topic in Iowa, but can it also be sexy and funny?
Jennifer Wilson thinks so, and she set out to prove it in her first novel, Water. The book takes on water quality and politics in Iowa, and it takes place against the familiar backdrop of Des Moines and Northeast Iowa.
On this Talk of Iowa interview, Charity Nebbe talks with Wilson about the book and its unconventional path to publication with t-shirt company RAYGUN. RAYGUN owner Mike Draper also joins the conversation to talk about the collaboration.
“It’s interesting when you take water quality issues and put them into the context of a story,” says Draper.
“This book is not like Erin Brockovich where there is one nemesis and one protagonist,” he says. “You suddenly realize this is an issue that involves everybody from city to industry to farmers, and addressing it is so much more complicated than just regulating one particular thing.”