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Did anyone else have a bit of a weird weekend? I was SO tired on Saturday, and I’m still not sure why, but I slept most of the day. I haven’t been sleeping well in general, so that could be part of it, and I’m placing the rest of the blame on life in a pandemic and general stress/anxiety/depression.
But, I somehow managed to read two whole books this weekend and I took a yoga class! I am slowly trying to get back into a better, more motivated headspace and that means getting back to regular physical movement, and working on staying present.
I wrote in my journal this morning — hadn’t done that in awhile — and am planning to take a walk this afternoon. Baby steps!
So, let’s get into the latest read: “Nomadland” by Jessica Bruder.
I strangely decided to read this after seeing so much about the movie. I actually was looking for the book, “The Queen’s Gambit” and kept seeing “Nomadland.” I read the description and I honestly wasn’t sure if this was a book for me, but if you’ve been here for awhile you’ve probably noticed that I’ll read just about anything.
I like true stories, I like learning about different cultures and ways of life, and some of the reviews said people learned about a part of America they didn’t know existed.
Well, count me in!
“Nomadland” is the true story of a particular population in the US that lives “off the grid” by working seasonal jobs and sleeps in cars or campers. A majority of this group is retirees that have made a sad discovery: that their social security checks won’t cover traditional rent payments.
To truly capture the story journalist and professor Jessica Bruder lived in a camper and followed her subjects for years on the trail. She even worked a few shifts at two popular seasonal jobs.
Her reporting throughout the book was masterful, but I especially appreciated her writings about her personal experiences on the trail.
The book follows a few specific people, but you meet passersby along the way, which is probably how it is on the road for this group of folks.
Many of these itinerants were forced to make a decision about their lives when they figured out how little their social security check would be — one person said it would be $500/month.
Actually, the only quote I highlighted in the book has to do with it:
Linda looks back on her Riverside years fondly. She still has a snapshot of herself in full uniform, smiling, her dark hair cropped short and the Colorado River at her back. But she was in her forties then. Her options for work would dwindle with age, rather than broadening to reflect her years of experience.
There seemed to be no way off the treadmill of low-wage jobs. By her sixties the question loomed: How would she ever afford to stop working? She had spent most of her life living paycheck-to-paycheck, with no savings to speak of. Her only safety net, Social Security, was perilously thin. What would retirement look like on around $500 a month?
They’d read up on how to live in a car or a camper from those that came before, and they took the leap.
Once they have the proper vehicle and supplies, they head where the jobs live — in certain places across the country at specific times of the year. Some people work at campgrounds, while others work at concession stands.
Many of them, at some point or another, work at Amazon in it’s CamperForce program which specifically targets itinerants.
At CamperForce, Amazon pays a crap wage to folks working 12-hour shifts in terrible conditions. The book does a great job of putting the reader right in the factory, but I’ll say this: if you didn’t hate Amazon before you picked up this book, you’ll hate them when you finish it.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers because this book is definitely worth reading, but I’ll say that it left me with mixed feelings.
On the one hand, it makes me sad that anyone has to make this decision to afford life in America — especially the older population who deserves to age however they wish.
But another part of me understands that they’re empowered by making this choice and living life on their terms. I can certainly understand the appeal of it.
Book Club Questions for ‘Nomadland’
- Do you know anyone who is living as an itinerant? Would you ever see yourself living off the grid and working these types of jobs?
- What are some pros and cons of living like Linda and the other people in the book?
- The book mentions that less and less workers in America feel like they’ll be able to truly retire and not work. What can the government do to create better options for retirees?
- Was there any part of this book that surprised you? Which part?
- How did you feel at the end of the book, specifically with Linda’s recent purchase?
I’m so glad I read this book! I had no clue about this subculture, and I wondered how they fared during the pandemic.
After I finished reading the book, I watched the movie on Hulu. It was okay, but I don’t think it had the same impact on me as the book did.
Have you read this book or any book that introduced you to an entirely new segment of people?
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I had a similar experience and similar feelings. I picked up the book after seeing a trailer for the movie. I really liked the book because it revealed a side of America I knew little about. I recently saw the movie, and I don’t think it does the book justice. The movie left me very sad.
I watched the movie after reading it and definitely thought the book was better!