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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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Powerful And Disturbing

I am not sure when I have been so totally engaged, enthralled and horrified by the dire circumstances presented in a book. This nonfiction economics title presented the real life struggles of Americans, often from the aging, 60+ demographic, trying to survive the aftermath of the 2008 real estate bubble and the financial crisis. Bruder researched her topic first hand and to me, did an excellent job conveying her message in the book. The author really helped the reader understand how something like this could happen. Bruner did this in a sympathetic, direct and insightful way which made the story completely relatable.

I'll be honest that I was nervous about listening and avoided the book for a while after it was in my library. Then, once I finally started the title I listened almost nonstop. The writing starts out upbeat and occasionally actually made me laugh. In the end, however, it had me reexamining my choices and left me feeling deeply concerned for how dire life has become in America as the middle class seems to disappear.

Bruder simply states the "what is" of the situation. No solutions are offered. I will say that if you need encouragement to save for retirement this is the book that will scare you into taking action. The book opened my eyes to a disastrous situation that seems to be getting worse, not better. Now what?

23 of 25 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Gillian
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • 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...

79 of 89 people found this review helpful

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  • Lili
  • West Coast
  • 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.




45 of 51 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

An Honest Exploration of Nomad Life

I am not a nomad, but I have followed a number of them on YouTube, blogs and even Patreon. This book fleshes out the struggles those who live this life confront, but also the close community they share. I found it to be very informative and a sobering commentary on the direction our society and economy appears to be heading for the fast disappearing middle class. However, far from apocalyptic, it hints at the endurance of the American dream and people who are reinterpreting it in a highly creative and independent way.

52 of 60 people found this review helpful

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The Tale of Two Americas

This was a frightening view of what America has become and where it's headed. Jessica Bruder embedded within this 'hidden in plain sight community' shows the humanity they find by coming together, the fears they live with, as well as the indignities they suffer. She also reveals the America that profits from thier labor and the America that refuses to see them and recognize it's obligation to them.
I am shaken to my core after listening to this book. There should be something that I can do, but I can't think of it. I am more mindful of this population now and I will try to SEE them and offer them what I can if nothing but a kind word. I will also look at my City's and my County's zoning ordinances and begin to work to carve a place out for them.
jc

34 of 42 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Tragic but enlightening

This is really a story about former middle-class Americans learning to survive after losing everything. It’s a tale of the have-nots and how they cope in our land of ever-widening economic disparity. Most of all, it’s about building community and using ingenuity to create a new life.

29 of 36 people found this review helpful

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  • JOSEPH
  • Bonners Ferry, ID, United States
  • 12-21-17

For those interested, this portrays a bleak future

Changes the outlook of being full-time RVers from when you want to, versus if you have to due to financial constraints. The author focuses on several people and weaves some overall history into telling their stories. The story gives the down and dirty of working at Amazon and the sugar beet harvest and the job beyond the glowing sales pitches. I love Amazon, but I wouldn't want to work at their distribution centers!

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

One of my favorite nonfiction books of 2017

I rarely give 5 stars to anything, though if I do it's far more likely to be nonfiction. I especially enjoy books like this--long, narrative journalism in which the writer is also a character in the book but not the focus.

I know a couple who did the "living in the RV" thing for a few years and tried camp hosting, which they did not find at all enjoyable. They weren't living close to the edge as many of the people Bruder encounters, so I was interested to read about other people and their stories.

Bruder's book was fascinating and while it didn't depress me at all while listening, ultimately it's pretty scary that it's come to this: retirees slaving away for Amazon, as camp hosts, etc. to supplement their Social Security, which is often not enough to even pay rent let alone anything else.

Some people say they want to live a mobile lifestyle, but many in the book appear to have been "forced" into it because there really aren't many viable choices.



17 of 23 people found this review helpful

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Entertaining and thought provoking.

I bought this book looking for a light hearted entertainment about those that choose to live "off the grid". This book is so much more. It really gave me a different perspective on those that were affected by the recession and their resilience to survive. It also opened my eyes about the "American Dream" and how big corporations (Amazon) are taking advantage of those just trying to get by. This story could be about any of us! I've already talked about this book and recommended it to others. Good luck Linda!

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Enjoyable listen

We listen while traveling in RV and while this is an enjoyable read, I feel the author didn't portray the main character entirely acurately and came across as nomadic life being depressing instead of the lifestyle choice it is. The main character chose to live as a traveller and preferred it to the stuck in one place life. Instead of really understanding the freedom of this choice, the author makes it sound a terrible choice which it is not. Being stuck in a box apartment or house with no chance of travel, that is a trap. Far too much dwelling on Amazon workcamps. Still worth a read if on sale.

20 of 28 people found this review helpful