A Sense of Direction by Gideon Lewis-Kraus

63%

24 Critic Reviews

That distinctly modern analysis of pilgrimage gives A Sense Of Direction its most powerful insights, but at the expense of making Lewis-Kraus appear to be an overly judgmental, petulant whiner.
-AV Club

Synopsis

       In medieval times, a pilgrimage gave the average Joe his only break from the daily grind. For Gideon Lewis-Kraus, it promises a different kind of escape. Determined to avoid the kind of constraint that kept his father, a gay rabbi, closeted until midlife, he has moved to anything-goes Berlin. But the surfeit of freedom there has begun to paralyze him, and when a friend extends a drunken invitation to join him on an ancient pilgrimage route across Spain, he grabs his sneakers, glad of the chance to be committed to something and someone. 
       Irreverent, moving, hilarious, and thought-provoking, A Sense of Direction is Lewis-Kraus's dazzling riff on the perpetual war between discipline and desire, and its attendant casualties. Across three pilgrimages and many hundreds of miles - the thousand-year-old Camino de Santiago, a solo circuit of eighty-eight Buddhist temples on the Japanese island of Shikoku, and, together with his father and brother, an annual mass migration to the tomb of a famous Hasidic mystic in the Ukraine - he completes an idiosyncratic odyssey to the heart of a family mystery and a human dilemma: How do we come to terms with what has been and what is - and find a way forward, with purpose?
 

About Gideon Lewis-Kraus

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GIDEON LEWIS-KRAUS has written for Harper's, The Believer, The New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, n+1, McSweeney's, Bookforum, The Nation, Slate, and other publications. A 2007–8 Fulbright fellowship brought him to Berlin, world capital of contemporary restlessness. He has more or less settled in Brooklyn.
 
Published May 10, 2012 by Riverhead Books. 352 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Travel, Education & Reference, Parenting & Relationships, Religion & Spirituality. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for A Sense of Direction
All: 24 | Positive: 14 | Negative: 10

Kirkus

Excellent
May 01 2012

Thought provoking and engaging in the style of Bruce Chatwin or Paul Theroux, with ample sides of Thomas Merton and Augusten Burroughs.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Daniel H Cohen on Mar 16 2014

Elsewhere, the book abounds in sharply drawn, occasionally hilarious studies of Lewis-Kraus's companions...Inevitably, he learns a series of "trite but vital life lessons" along the way, and if these are occasionally overstated, they are recounted with a winning blend of earnestness, wit and high-octane intellect.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Colm Tóibín on Feb 14 2014

All the same, Lewis-Kraus manages to make his own needs and the dramas within his own family pressing and oddly raw and almost moving. He and his brother interrogate their father's life and try to understand what happened.

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Blog Critics

Below average
May 24 2012

the author comes across as indulgent, a perpetual teenager with no means of support, albeit funny, good natured and interesting, but angry over his father’s perceived betrayal of the family unit.

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NY Journal of Books

Below average
Reviewed by Vinton Rafe McCabe on Apr 20 2014

In the end, A Sense of Direction seems the product of an overly educated, overly entitled entity. In terms of truth in advertising, the subtitle, which reads Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful, should instead have been Enlightenment for the One Percent.

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WSJ online

Below average
Reviewed by JAMES CAMPBELL on May 11 2012

Travelers rarely find what they seek, and no doubt Mr. Lewis-Kraus will have to do it all again in one form or another. Next time, he might skip the Camino, get into the country and pretend for a month that the Internet had never been invented.

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Financial Times

Good
Reviewed by Rebecca Abrams on Jan 31 2014

A Sense of Direction is a brave, honest work of self-reckoning. There is so much sincerity and warmheartedness in this pilgrim’s progress that it’s easy to overlook its occasional slippages into portentousness or laddishness.

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AV Club

Below average
Reviewed by Kevin McFarland on Jul 02 2012

That distinctly modern analysis of pilgrimage gives A Sense Of Direction its most powerful insights, but at the expense of making Lewis-Kraus appear to be an overly judgmental, petulant whiner.

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Christian Science Monitor

Excellent
Reviewed by Bob Blaisdell on May 10 2012

I’m a convert, not only to pilgrimages but to this first-rate book

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BookPage

Excellent
Reviewed by Catherine Hollis

a deeply intelligent, often funny memoir about finding a sense of purpose through walking in the centuries-old footsteps of religious pilgrims. But it is also a sensitive and nuanced coming-of-age memoir

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Cleveland.com

Below average
Reviewed by Sam Allard on May 22 2012

There are poignant, eminently quotable observations -- "What pilgrimage does is complicate the distinction between a reason and an excuse" -- but they tend to overlap and can't quite spruce up the monotony of the walking-narrative.

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The Rumpus

Excellent
Reviewed by Menachem Kaiser on Jun 25 2012

this book is gorgeously written. (It’s also wonderfully organized and structured, but you may need a second reading to appreciate it.)

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Los Angeles Review of Books

Below average
Jun 08 2012

Often, as the reader, you are the armchair psychologist listening to a very tightly-wound and at times obsessive patient work through his issues with his father. He revels in his neuroses.

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Book Forum

Excellent
Reviewed by Peter Manseau

Finding a sense of direction in the waning days of one’s overextended youth can be serious business, and Lewis-Kraus never becomes mawkish or frivolous as he treks onward.

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Full Stop

Below average
Reviewed by Anna-Claire Stinebring on Jun 11 2012

This pilgrimage memoir doesn’t fall into the trap of tidy conversion story or cold spiritual debunking. But it does leave something to be desired. It’s tempting to call what it’s lacking a sense of direction.

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Lambda Literary

Excellent
Reviewed by Viet Dinh on Aug 12 2012

Lewis-Kraus keeps his humor sharp, and he’s as comfortable referencing Wittgenstein as he is riffing off The Real Housewives of New Jersey.

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Vol. 1 Brooklyn

Excellent
Reviewed by Jason Diamond on Jun 01 2012

Lewis-Kraus walking alongside his flesh and blood as well as thousands of his fellow Jews is proof that no matter how far away you travel and no matter how much searching you do, all roads truly do lead back home.

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Sophisticated Dorkiness

Good
Reviewed by Kim on Jul 04 2012

he book is full of big, good questions, and reading A Sense of Direction helped me consider them in a new way

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Between The Covers

Good
Reviewed by Heather on Jun 27 2012

I like the way Gideon writes, and A Sense of Direction has a very personal feel to it–not only because it’s a memoir, but because he made me feel like he was telling me about his adventures. I felt like I was there

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Man of la Book

Below average
Reviewed by Zohar on May 24 2012

When it came time for the philo­soph­i­cal per­spec­tives I had the urge to put the book down, take a deep breath and curse in frus­tra­tion using sev­eral for­eign lan­guages.

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4everoverhead

Good
Reviewed by Brooks on Jun 12 2012

It's as much about Gideon Lewis-Kraus' physical journeys as it's about his journey as a friend, brother and son. It's about acceptance and choosing to forgive and through that discovery, finding purpose.

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Seeing Clarely

Below average
Sep 06 2012

he went a little overboard at times with the intellectual navel gazing – showing his youth, for which I’ll forgive him. I would have cut out most of the first 55 pages on his purposelessness in Berlin, as well as quite a few other sections.

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Sofia Perez Writer

Good
Reviewed by Sofia Perez on Aug 11 2012

Lewis-Kraus is engaging, smart and brutally honest company.

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Barb Caffrey's Blog

Good
Reviewed by Barb Caffrey on Jul 08 2012

A SENSE OF DIRECTION is a moving work of non-fiction that feels palpably real and makes clear the need for pilgrimages even in the modern era. It’s also bitingly funny, trenchant, honest to a fault

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Reader Rating for A Sense of Direction
68%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 62 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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