In a much needed change of pace from Mischling, Adrienne Ross Scanlan’s lovely memoir Turning Homeward explores the connections between finding our place and the physical world in which we make our homes. Having relocated from New York to Seattle, the author addresses the challenges she faced in deciding to set down roots, and how her immersion in her natural environment acted as the catalyst for her process.
Through Scanlan’s eyes readers will follow hiking trails, observe changing landscapes, and learn the careful art of trying to count and safeguard the Pacific salmon population. Her love for the outdoors and the simple, non-judgmental way in which she describes her activities will have readers reaching for their most comfortable walking shoes and favorite trail mix. Neither snow, nor sleet, nor rain, will be able to keep you indoors. Trust me. I read this in New Jersey in the winter.
Scanlan’s experience is also shaped by her Jewish tradition, and particularly, her commitment to tikkun olam. Her attention to the meaning of this teaching, and explanation of what it means to her as a “hope that meaningful action was possible” brings clarity to her work. Although Scanlan was raised in a religiously observant home, her description of how she came to adopt tikkun olam as her central Jewish belief is remarkably devoid of anger or bitterness. Her respect for the more ritualistic aspects of Jewish life is apparent throughout her story. Scanlan may spend the day of Yom Kippur helping to restock a lake with salmon eggs, but she does so as an action that is meaningful to her. She does not prescribe that others adopt her ideals. Rather, she shows how she discovered and tries to live by what she has learned about her need for home, nature, and faith.
With a writing style reminiscent of Annie Dillard and Anne Lamott, Scanlan’s words have a delicacy that will gently carry readers along on her journey. A short read that can be enjoyed anywhere, it has the power to transport readers to the place they cherish most. Jewish readers may especially appreciate reading it around the holiday of Sukkot, as its themes of shelter, hospitality, and changing seasons will make it especially relevant at that time. As part of a larger adult education class on the value of tikkun olam or the relationship between Judaism and the environment, Turning Homeward will provide a novel and refreshing text.
To connect with Adrienne Ross Scanlan, please visit her website : adrienne-ross-scanlan.com. She is available to talk with book clubs either in person or via Skype. Details can be found at http://adrienne-ross-scanlan.com/book-clubs/. Mountaineer Books is currently offering a 20% discount for this title (all versions) for purchases from their website with the code TURNHOME at checkout when ordering online.