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Extended Audio Sample A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful, by Gideon Lewis-Kraus Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (207 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Gideon Lewis-Kraus Narrator: Erik Singer Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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’ 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?

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Gideon Lewis-Kraus has written a very honest, very smart, very moving book about being young and rootless and even wayward. With great compassion and zeal he gets at the question: why search the world to solve the riddle of your own heart?” 

    Dave Eggers, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Beautiful, often very funny…Lewis-Kraus weaves a story that is both searching and purposeful, one that forces the reader, like the pilgrim, to value the journey as much as the destination.”

    New Yorker

  • “Charming and disarming…a wonderful exploration of the stories we tell ourselves to justify and impart narrative weight to our curiosities and compulsions.”

    New York Times Magazine

  • “Rightfully anticipated literary debut.” 


  • “A witty, deeply felt memoir…an honest, incisive grappling with the brute fact…that we only have one life to live…sparkles with tight, nearly aphoristic observations.” 

    Boston Globe

Listener Opinions

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Durhamthonert | 2/14/2014

    " A friend got a copy, had it signed, was bored with it, passed it on to me, and I was bored too. Self-indulgent, no sense of emotional depth. Speaks of his travels as though he's the only person who's ever traveled. A total turn-off, a complete snooze. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Jaclyn | 2/12/2014

    " "'Eat, Pray, Love' as if written by David Foster Wallace" is way too charitable (thanks, Gary Shteyngart). Don't compare someone to a unique master if they don't deserve it. Made it about halfway through when I realized it wasn't really worth continuing. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Brin | 2/11/2014

    " Gideon Lewis-Kraus arrives with the potential of any young writer-- that he'll write work that transcends his own experience, that he'll illuminate something about the larger world. This book attempts that, but ultimately becomes an act of immature self-indulgence and immense ego (which would match his persona, if his author appearances are any indication). The "restless and hopeful" mentioned is, predictably, himself, and the book reads like another flimsy MFA thesis about ME ME ME, which results in, for the reader, YAWN YAWN YAWN. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Rob Gall | 2/3/2014

    " Having seen "The Way" about one man's pilgrimage on "Camino de Santiago", I found this segment on Gideon's book the most interesting for its contrast to the film. By the time I got through Shikoku I was getting a bit tired of his whining about his sore feet (seems like he could've trained a bit more these efforts). As I'm neither Jewish nor was ever estranged from my loving father, I found the last event in Uman a bit tiresome. Gideon is, however, a good enough writer to hold your interest. "

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