It’s not often I have the preconceived notion I am not going to like a book. Why read it, right? Well, because I might be wrong. Such was the case with Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century (W.W. Norton & Company, 2017).
My apprehension going in was I had seen the movie that premiered in 2020. Even though it won best picture at the Academy Awards, I didn’t like the film. I did, however, see how Frances McDormand won for best actress and best director.
Like most movies that are adapted from a book, it is just a sliver of what is between the covers and rarely does the pages justice.
Author Jessica Bruder delves so much deeper into the lives of the people who are houseless—not homeless. There is a difference. These people have chosen to live in vehicles of all kinds for all sorts of reasons.
What Bruder doesn’t do is romanticize about what life on the road is like. Hers was a multi-year research project that included living and working among those she then wrote about.
It certainly gave me a better understanding of what life full time in a vehicle would be like, especially when you have to keep working. The horror stories of working at some of these places makes me never want to work at Amazon or pick sugar beets.
This isn’t a travel book about going to national parks and being on vacation without an end date. Many of the people in Nomadland had good paying jobs, owned real estate and then the Great Recession hit. They adopted a transient lifestyle to survive.
I became so interested in some of the “characters” that I would love for Bruder to write a sequel or perhaps a book focusing on just a few of the “stars” in Nomadland.
You only have to look in shopping center parking lots in S Lake Tahoe to see a variety of campers, motor homes etc which are often in obviously bad shape so see that nomads are still and will always be a part of our population. Each one has their story.
The main character in Nomadland did not become homeless due to the recession as much as when her husband died, and secondarily due to the shutdown of a gypsum mining operation that had closed due to running out of economic gypsum. Had been in operation for many many years. One of the last of the “company towns” common in the remote areas of this country.
I totally agree that the movie (which I liked a lot) did not do justice to the book, and I am not sure that the complexity of facts could be adequately covered in a movie less than 4 or 5 hours long and nobody would sit through it.
Thank you for reminding me of this book and movie, neither of which have I read or seen. I completely agree with you that books and movies of the same work are different experiences, even when the author and screenwriter are the same person. Each form has something that the other does not.