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English department

A Sense of Direction
by Gordon Lewis-Kraus

For those who are dying to have a certain life experience but have not yet been able to complete it, try to live vicariously through someone else. In A Sense of Direction, Gideon Lewis-Strauss tries to give you that experience through descriptions of his three pilgrimages in Asia and Europe. Even experiences you wish he would not share, such as his painful relationship with his father, you find yourself drawn to it in either fascination or a feeling of disgust. But no matter how strong that feeling may be, you just keep reading. From Berlin to Spain, Japan to the Ukraine, Lewis-Strauss paints a detailed picture of his ups and downs throughout his pilgrimage.

In his time in Berlin, he lived off of money from a Fulbright Scholarship. He enjoyed raves and romance, which would both be time consuming and stifling. Then joining a friend and author, Tom Bissell, in Spain where he documented his experiences through emails he sent to family and friends. On the following pilgrimage, Lewis-Strauss spent time on the island of Shikoku in Japan. There he paid no mind, despite the beauty, to the 88 Buddhist temples, instead he seemed to focus on being lonely and gelid. Which makes you wonder as to why he chose to visit the least-populous island of the country in the first place.

For some readers, Lewis-Strauss may rely on his phone and other forms of technology too much for their liking. Like most of our generation, it keeps him from falling into full syncopation with the environments he encounters. These moments when he stops to type into his phone, are details he could have left out of the book and still have come up with a successful story. But these moments, arguably, are important to the story telling. Some readers can relate to this use of technology.

Lewis-Strauss’ complaints about his father, a rabbi, and his struggle to be honest about his sexuality and divorce would, possibly, be common place among two people conversing during a trek through these countries, but in this book it carries on too long at times. As a reader, this causes a loss of interest in the story and the purpose of the story. But, he finds a way to draw you back in with his descriptions.

This book provides a vivid look into the struggle between freedom and how you take advantage of said freedom. Lewis-Strauss displays a sense of progressing maturity as he moves from Berlin all the way to his final pilgrimage in the Ukraine. He puts his sense of security behind him and goes out into the world of the unknown first accompanied by a friend then onward by his lonesome. It becomes easier to respect the author as you read further about his struggles and triumphs throughout his epic pilgrimage.