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EAST WINDS by Rachel Rueckert Kirkus Star


A Global Quest To Reckon With Marriage

by Rachel Rueckert

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-948218-63-4
Publisher: By Common Consent Press

A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints confronts her misgivings about marriage on her globe-trotting honeymoon in this soulful debut memoir.

Rueckert writes of feeling a conflict between her church’s characterization of marriage and motherhood as a woman’s highest calling and her own desire to teach, write, and see the world. Compounding her anxiety were the example of her parents’ divorce and a giddy college romance that ended, leaving her devastated. Then she met Austin, a member of her faith who was supportive of her career aspirations; she married him in 2014, when she was 25, and the two embarked on a monthslong tour through South America, Asia, and Europe. The trip threw them into trying circumstances as they weathered squalid hostels, border-crossing snafus, money issues, and even an attack by a pack of wild dogs in Peru. Their accommodations to each other were also difficult, as Rueckert’s cautious, fretful temperament chafed against Austin’s adventurous, impulsive personality. Along the way, the author surveyed the marital wisdom of everybody from the Karen people of Thailand to her Hindu acquaintances in Bangalore. The journey culminated in a grueling 500-mile pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela that also featured warm camaraderie with other pilgrims. Intertwined with these narratives are the author’s recollections of her family—including her fraught relationship with her mother—and the courtship culture of her church. Over the course of the book, Rueckert’s reminiscences present readers with an evocative travelogue and a remarkably sensitive and insightful portrait of the difficulties of modern marriage and the compromises that one makes to feel both autonomy and connection. Her scenes of marital discord, in particular, crackle with barely restrained emotion: “We ate in perfect silence. I stared at the table….‘You don’t inspire me anymore,’ I said, the words reverberating like a bomb. I waited a heartbeat, maybe two. ‘I’m not happy.’ ” It’s a sometimes-harsh, unsparing account of a rocky beginning, but Rueckert’s grappling with uncertainty yields courage and a luminous sense of hope.

An engrossing exploration of a hard but ultimately exhilarating trek toward love and commitment.