The inspiration for Chloé Zhao's celebrated film starring Frances McDormand, winner of the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress
March and April pick for the PBS Newshour-New York Times "Now Read This" Book Club
New York Times bestseller
"People who thought the 2008 financial collapse was over a long time ago need to meet the people Jessica Bruder got to know in this scorching, beautifully written, vivid, disturbing (and occasionally wryly funny) book." —Rebecca Solnit
From the beet fields of North Dakota to the National Forest campgrounds of California to Amazon’s CamperForce program in Texas, employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older Americans. Finding that social security comes up short, often underwater on mortgages, these invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in late-model RVs, travel trailers, and vans, forming a growing community of nomads.
On frequently traveled routes between seasonal jobs, Jessica Bruder meets people from all walks of life: a former professor, a McDonald’s vice president, a minister, a college administrator, and a motorcycle cop, among many others—including her irrepressible protagonist, a onetime cocktail waitress, Home Depot clerk, and general contractor named Linda May.
In a secondhand vehicle she christens “Van Halen,” Bruder hits the road to get to know her subjects more intimately. Accompanying Linda May and others from campground toilet cleaning to warehouse product scanning to desert reunions, then moving on to the dangerous work of beet harvesting, Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of the dark underbelly of the American economy—one that foreshadows the precarious future that may await many more of us. At the same time, she celebrates the exceptional resilience and creativity of these quintessential Americans who have given up ordinary rootedness to survive. Like Linda May, who dreams of finding land on which to build her own sustainable “Earthship” home, they have not given up hope.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The American Dream is as precarious as it is precious—leading many older Americans to abandon it in favor of a different dream altogether. Journalist Jessica Bruder’s compelling nonfiction book profiles a diverse group of individuals who have opted for a nomadic life, trading in traditional “stick and brick” homes for RVs, campers, and even cars. Each of the people Bruder introduces us to lost their tenuous place in the middle class to circumstances like illness, divorce, and the Great Recession. And instead of fighting an uphill battle to return to their previous positions, they opted out, forming an amazing community devoted to each other and the appeal of the open road. We found it eye-opening to view the world from the perspectives of these perpetual travelers, who emphasize that they’re houseless, not homeless. While it’s shocking that these resourceful Americans all slipped through the cracks, what stuck with us is their hope, generosity, and adventurous spirit. Nomadland has been adapted into an acclaimed movie starring Frances McDormand, and we highly recommend reading the moving real-life accounts that inspired it.
Actor White engages listeners in Bruder's sociological study of a group of low-income, mostly white elderly Americans who travel from job to job in RVs to avoid the cost of a permanent home. These are men and women in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s who consider themselves not homeless but houseless, having lost their homes or opted to ditch their mortgages, taxes, and repair bills. Listeners will feel as if they are right there in Bruder's passenger seat, traveling with her to RV campsites, researching, and sharing grief and friendship with the "workampers." Among the people profiled is 64-year-old Linda May, who lives in a tiny trailer she calls the Squeeze Inn "yeah, there's room, squeeze in" and works as a "host" in trailer camps registering newcomers, repairing RVs, and cleaning toilets all day. She then heads to Amazon warehouses for long, exhausting night shifts sorting packages. White's friendly voice and easygoing conversational rhythm embeds listeners in the misery but also the camaraderie of these under-the-radar 21st-century nomads. A Norton hardcover.
So good and fascinating! I loved it and can’t wait to watch the movie.
Interesting view of a world I didn’t know existed. Thanks for the journey.
Ingenuity in conversion of vehicles to living quarters by older folks who travel the country. They befriend, support and make what could be dire circumstances livable. GVGardenGirl