Monday, November 17, 2008

review of When Wanderers Cease to Roam

When Wanderers Cease to Roam: A Traveler's Journey of Staying Put by Vivian Swift

Some books to do not fall easily into a category and When Wanders Cease to Roam is one of those books. Part memoir, part travel diary, part daily observations of a calendar year in a small town on Long Island Sound, part amusing insights on things past, present and future from the mundane to the poetic, it is a tome filled with a wonderful variety of delightful nuggets.

After traveling around the world from the time she was 19, holding a wide variety of jobs and having a number of fascinating…and not so fascinating experiences…Ms. Swift decided when she was about forty to take a pause in her travels. A ten year pause along the coast of Long Island Sound; a pause that in her hands proves to be just as interesting as some of her more exotic adventures. To quote the author,
"I bummed around the world for twenty years before I suddenly decided to unpack my duffle bags once for all. On a whim I chose a small village on the Long Island Sound to be my happily-ever- after address. Little did I know that home would be the most extraordinary place I'd ever visit."
Well, in her hands and through her eyes it is.

The book is illustrated with about 300 of Ms. Swift's works of art, from her wonderful watercolors, to pen and ink line drawings and illustrations of everything from her cats to her neighbors to snowmen playing on a winter day. There is a page of her painting of eight varieties of snowflakes, another of 19 lost mittens she found over the ten years of her walks in the village, two pages devoted to lovely, colorful drawings of her collection of tea cups, many with a story, that makes my shelf of mugs at home seem so dull.

We travel with her from January, when we learn how to 'winterize' our minds, through March, which is both Tea Time and the time of 14 types of mud…all illustrated…May, the season of Secret Gardens to September, when she proposes The Acre of Earth Theory of Life.
"Everyone gets an acre of Earth when they're born... If you ever feel crowded into a corner by your life, you need to take a better look at your acre of Earth. It's bigger than you think."
Her 'acre' has extended from Zen Buddhist boyfriends in Paris, to rainy days in Dublin and mornings in the Sahara. The book ends when we have come full circle, back to the short, cold winter days of December. Along the way, we have brief visits with Thoreau, Dickinson, Willa Cather and Scooter, the ugly kitten. Every step is beautifully illustrated and it those illustrations that make this book so special.

Don't get me wrong; the text of this book is very good. At time it is poetic, at time philosophical and at times just very, very funny… and always entertaining. But the book is really just so attractive to look at and I absolutely love the watercolors. Gosh, I wish I could paint like that…or at all for that matter…lol

I totally recommend this absolutely charming book. It would be a lovely gift for someone in this coming holiday season, a wonderful idea when you would like to give something other than a bottle of wine or a fruitcake when you are invited over for that Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/Festivus party. Or even better yet, just buy it as a gift to yourself, one that you can come back to and revisit as each month rolls by with Ms. Swift as your guide.
As for me, I am off in search of a quince tree to plant, because you know, October, just past, is Quince Month. Quince is "The Golden Love Apple, given by Paris to Aphrodite, leading to the downfall of Troy." A fruit with a history and I need to try that quince jam recipe!

Available from Amazon


  1. The cover alone would make me want to pick this book up. The illustrations in the rest of the book sound beautiful. Thanks for the great review!

  2. While the cover is very nice, it's a trifle 'folk art'...or something like that... for my taste. But the watercolors...did I mention how much I like the many, many watercolors in the book. Yes, I may have...:-)

  3. I just started this book and I am finding it delightful. I'm enjoying the pictures as much as the words.

  4. I found it a quick read, but it is the sort of book that you could come back to and page through and enjoy again.

    Delightful is an excellent word to describe it.

  5. I absolutely must hurry out to buy this book - it sounds delightful.

  6. This sounds like a wonderful book. I so regret not requesting it!

  7. I almost didn't. I don't quite remember the ad, but it did not do the book justice.


please speak up, I LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!!