The novel East Winds by Rachel Rueckert follows the author’s and her husband Austin’s journey during their first year of marriage, particularly the quest to determine whether the author really wanted to be married. After being married, they travel the world, hiking via South America and Asia to Santiago de Compostela. The goal of the author’s research was to examine marriage relationships throughout the world.
Rachel explores the opinions of several people on this journey to learn about their views on marriage rituals. She learns that opinions on marriage depend greatly on the culture and region. The author talks on how her upbringing affected her internal struggle with the pressure to live up to expectations and be a “nice girl.” Her inner conflict is quite evident throughout the entire book as she struggles with her opinions on her union and her urge to be independent.
The idea of wind appears throughout the book in many themes. The East Winds’ beginnings, which originate in Wyoming and travel through Utah, are described by Rachel. She battles the external conflict that demands particular circumstances be met before being accepted in her community. She senses her wanderlust and the need to be free from attachment to anyone or anything.
With her formal ceremony to intricate rituals, such as a horoscope consultation in the Kannada region of India, the author reconciles marriage patterns. She found customs that were akin to a trial marriage, when couples live together before getting legally wed, as well as practises where newlyweds take part in a traditional dance. A man’s new wife is the other lady he dances with, and his ex-wife gets a new spouse if they get married.
By sharing the experiences of numerous people, the autobiographical genre of the book also incorporates components of interpersonal stories and experiences. Given Rachel’s background, this story has a minor religious undertone, but the author’s anthropological knowledge allows her narratives to be balanced overall. Her arguments are strong and well-reasoned.
Author Rachel Rueckert makes a strong case for women’s emancipation and offers a wealth of knowledge about different marriage traditions from throughout the world. The thoroughness and comprehensiveness of this work make it highly recommended. The data and tales told therein will be helpful to those with an interest in anthropology and women’s studies.
About The Book
Rachel panicked as she lay awake on the first night of her year-long honeymoon—a backpacking trip around the world. Though young and in love, she wasn’t sure she actually believed in marriage, let alone the lofty Mormon ideal of eternal marriage. This unconventional honeymoon felt like a brief reprieve from the crushing expectations for a Mormon bride. But this trip also offered opportunities: the chance to study wedding traditions in other cultures and the space to confront what marriage—including her own—meant to her.
Along the way, she got kicked out of Peru, escaped rabid dogs in the Amazon, stumbled upon democracy protests in Hong Kong, launched an unlucky lantern in Thailand, and trekked five hundred miles across Spain in sandals. These experiences helped Rachel confront her tumultuous past, question her inherited relationship models, and embrace her restless nature within marriage—exchanging faith in certainty for faith in the day-to-day choice of partnership and faith in herself.
EAST WINDS is written in the tradition of Elizabeth Gilbert’s COMMITTED, Cheryl Strayed’s WILD, and Tara Westover’s EDUCATED. Far more than a travelogue, this sweeping coming-of-age memoir offers timeless insights into this complex, universal institution. Too many love stories end with marriage. This one starts there instead.
Rachel has such a great writing style! She really sets scenes well and keeps your attention through her journey, thoughts, and memories. I kind of wish there was a visual separation between time periods within the chapters, but that's such a minute detail. She writes clearly enough that they aren't really needed, my eyeballs just like it. Being in a society that taught women and girls that marriage is the ultimate goal sets us up for so much heartache. This book really shines a light on what it's like to be an independent woman in a culture that only values us as we are paired and procreating, and how truly scary marriage can look and how hard it is to embrace that choice even when you found someone you don't want to live without.
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