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Publisher's Summary

From the beet fields of North Dakota to the wilderness campgrounds of California to an Amazon warehouse in Texas, people who once might have kicked back to enjoy their sunset years are hard at work. Underwater on mortgages or finding that Social Security comes up short, they're hitting the road in astonishing numbers, forming a new community of nomads: RV and van-dwelling migrant laborers, or "workampers".
Building on her groundbreaking Harper's cover story, "The End of Retirement", which brought attention to these formerly settled members of the middle class, Jessica Bruder follows one such RVer, Linda, between physically taxing seasonal jobs and reunions of her new van-dweller family, or "vanily". Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of both the economy's dark underbelly and the extraordinary resilience, creativity, and hope of these hardworking, quintessential Americans - many of them single women - who have traded rootedness for the dream of a better life.
©2017 Jessica Bruder (P)2017 HighBridge, a Division of Recorded Books
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Lili on 01-11-18

Both heartbreaking and inspiring

Outstanding and well researched book of non fiction. In fact it may turn out to be my favorite work of non fiction this year, it’s too soon to know yet, I have lengthy Wish List to tackle.

The author spent three years researching this book, she got a van and traveled and camped with many of the folks contained within for months at a time. She worked, albeit briefly both at an Amazon warehouse and at a sugar beet harvesting operation.

Of course she had the privilege of returning to her real life, and her very high paying job. Virtually none of the folks she highlights in the book have that as an option. And the author makes that quite clear, that she in no way equates her experiences with the hardships and ordeals of the folks that are living and traveling in vehicles just to survive, many on nothing except social security checks, and periodic bouts of low wage hard labor.

Imagine being 68 years old and working 12 hour days, lifting, squatting, walking up and down stairs, and averaging 14 miles a day of walking on concrete floors. For around $10 an hour. And then going home each night to a trailer, or van, or car, to sleep, eat, and use the toilet. All while trying to stay clean, and warm. Imagine your mom or dad having to do this. And imagine you or they are in these circumstances because you lost your home, your 401k, and your job, in the economic crash of 2008 after decades of doing everything right to plan and save for a secure retirement.

The author does an excellent job putting faces on this reality, the ups, the downs, the stoicism, the hardships, and the community. I also loved the narration...Karen White has a gritty, gravelly, voice that felt quite perfect for these gritty stories of survival by folks that should be enjoying their later years but are instead struggling to survive them.

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42 of 44 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Gillian on 03-07-18

Eccentric Hobby? No--Survival Skills!

I first ran across working nomads in a piece on CBS Sunday Morning. It was winter, and an older couple was delighting in hitting the road, finding places where the older gentleman could be a Santa, and the older woman could work in a gift shop, all the time looking like a Mrs. Claus. They seemed deliriously happy.
Enter Nomadland, and all of that is turned on its head. Here, Bruder follows mostly Linda, a woman in her mid-60s, on her quest to find ways to make ends meet. We meet others, we meet depressing and challenging work environments, we meet jamborees where like-minded people come together.
While Bruder's prose is sometimes lovely, and her depiction of the nomads is always gentle, I found the book to be somewhat frightening. Make no mistake: It's a good book. It's just that it plays upon my deepest fear of being one illness away from homelessness. (And by the way, the nomads are HOUSELESS! Don't tick them off!)
Karen White turns in a 50-50 performance as she always does (she butchered Daring Greatly; she shone in Nothing to Envy)--sometimes she's on target, but sometimes her delivery is dry and robotic.
Still, and engaging book. But it's kinda sorta too depressing to spend a whole credit on...

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74 of 79 people found this review helpful

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