Member Reviews

I don't usually have good luck with contemporary poetry. Not that I'm an expert or anything, it's just that the last collections I've read have been lacking and superficial, and failed at making me feel something, anything. Even so, I keep trying whenever I find one, and this one caught my eye on NetGalley. I'm so glad I requested and got it!

Joy Sullivan has a voice and it was a delight to read her poems. I highlighted so many lines that stood out to me and I know I'll revisit many of the poems, so I'll be adding this book to my library as soon as I can.

This poetry collection is tender and sweet, sad and hopeful. I found myself relating to a lot of the things Joy communicated through her poems, and that's what I look for in poetry. That even if we live such different lives, something about our humanity still allows us to connect because you were brave enough to share yourself. That's the depth and authenticity that other poetry collections have lacked for me, and I'm glad this has it.

I'm even left feeling like I know a few things about this author as a person because I feel like she truly shared not only her perspective and her words but also her experiences and the core of who she is. I just loved this!

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I loooooovvvved this book. The poems were very easy to get into, very digestible, and still very filling. I loved the themes in this collection of poems which chronicles the author's journey away from a man, moving out west, and finding herself along the way. There were a couple of poems in this collection that I felt spoke directly to ME, which was a cool experience. There's an interlude in the middle of the poetry with several poems on the theme of Eve in the garden, which I really enjoyed. I will read more of her poetry any day, and recommend to anyone who thinks they might like poetry but aren't sure.

Thanks to netgalley for the free copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

#netgalley #instructionsfortravelingwest

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Just lovely. I have followed Joy online for a while now, and was thrilled to get an e-arc of this book! Poetry is so necessary, so vital to the daily work of living. Joy writes in a clear, evocative, passionate, and thoughtful way. I am constantly amazed by her command of language and imagery, and particularly resonate with the way she processes transition, change, and grief. Truly a necessary read for all - poetry lovers or not!
Favorite excerpt: “no matter which road you take, it will be both glorious and unbearable. Every road is lonely. Every road, holy. The only error is not walking forth.”

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I started following Joy on social media because someone shared the title poem, "Instructions for Traveling West." I think that poem will resonate with many people without the context--people that have wanderlust, want new beginnings, etc. So I do worry that some will pick up this book and find that many of the other poems are not what they were expecting But they do all fit together in the context of the poet's life--her missionary parents took her to Africa as a child, then had to flee because of political unrest. She grapples with finding her identity outside of the Evangelical Christian world, then outside corporate America, and outside of a relationship she leaves to travel West. I'm of a similar age and grappling with my own evolution away from my upbringing, as well as the economic ups and downs of being born in the 1980s (I won't say the M-word), so some of these poems were almost too close to home for me. But that is the work of poetry, isn't it? To make you feel and think and want to write your own. So thank you, Joy Sullivan, Penguin Random House, and Netgalley for the opportunity to travel west, at least in spirit.

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Thank you to Joy Sullivan, Random House Publishing Group, and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC. Publish Date: April 9th, 2024

Please do yourself a favor and put this on your TBR list! It has been awhile since I read a collection of poetry, and I forgot how powerful they can be. This collection was incredibly beautiful and full of raw honesty. I cannot wait until this is released so I can purchase a physical copy and read it all over again.

This book made me want to wash my hair in the rain like I did when I was a kid, travel the world, and live for yourself.

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A lovely collection of poetry that's also clearly a memoir about moving on. Sullivan has invested her heart in these poems. Thanks to Netgalley for the ArC. One to savor.

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It is rare when I read a book of poems and love every single one. "Instructions for Traveling West" by Joy Sullivan is that diamond in the rough. This poetry collection joins "Above Ground" by Clint Smith as one of the best poetry books I’ve ever read. I devoured the whole thing in a day!

Sullivan has that rare and unmistakable gift to transform the most ordinary of experiences into an extraordinary gift of magic through her words and verse. Her poetry is raw, unapologetic, dazzling, and full of emotion and recognition. Sullivan is a master wordsmith who knows exactly how to write a line in just the right way that the stanza would lose meaning and be incomplete without it.

There is something in this collection for everyone, so please do yourself a favor and add this to your TBR pile.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House for providing an ARC of this book for me to read early, love wholeheartedly, and encourage everyone to read.

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really enjoyed this book. The author wrote about a lot from love, to covid, to travel, to religion, to etc.

There were so many poems that I’ve already reread from this book. I will definitely be passing it on to others.

I loved the honest take on her religious upbringing and where that’s left her in her life now.

I loved the female empowerment and girls girl energy.

This book made me want to roll in the rain, scream at the sky, hold my loved ones closer, say the nice thing, dust off my suitcase, and do what’s best for me.

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The introductory poem set up a great collection focusing on themes of moving, feeling unsettled, wanderlust, etc. The actual collection did not live up to that. I will admit, I prefer my poetry a bit more vague, and this was painfully autobiographical in places, and I am never able to relate to poems that feel like compulsive oversharing. Often it didn't feel like there was much connection from poem to poem. I'm sure other people will enjoy this collection, the writing isn't bad, it just isn't for me.

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Instructions for Traveling West is a short but lovely book of poetry.
Each poem is like a tiny snippet or a story of part of someone’s life, they are in turn poignant, witty, heartfelt and familiar.
Definitely a book I would own and read regularly.

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This poetry collection is so beautiful and apt for this moment in my life - so, so many of the poems resonated with me deeply and taught me a lot about heartbreak, independence, self-worth, self-discovery, loneliness, womanhood, and picking yourself back up again. Sullivan's personal journey is inspiring and bold and reminds me that there is so, so much that the wide world has to offer. I loved the opening poem and how each section of the collection tied back to it - realize you're homesick; howl; reacquaint yourself with desire; remember joy is not a trick.

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"It's almost cruel, he laughs. After everything, how the world still insists on being beautiful."

I love poetry like this - achingly honest, full of love for life and the world and the people in it. I've followed Joy Sullivan on instagram for a while and looked forward to this book.

It did not disappoint.

Thank you to the publisher for the eARC in exchange for my review.

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Joy Sullivan creates an intriguing premise in the way she breaks down this collection into five overarching themes set towards one goal.

The style of poetry is lovely, with beautiful metaphors and an interesting mix of the tangible and the abstract to lift meaning from her life, rather than simply retelling her life and hoping we find meaning in it. She does well in twining together themes and creating these wonderful observations out of the mundane. First and foremost, she touches on the lives lost and lives lived in girlhood and and how they transition into those of womanhood. She grapples with her Christian faith and has some beautiful poems rife with Biblical imagery.

There is something almost wild about her writing—and this goes beyond the subject material as nature plays a recurring role in her writing. There are poems whose meanings are more easily found and poems whose meanings you have to search for, who touch on the wild and the intangible, drawing past and present and love and loss together. I think it comes from her search for new beginnings, another theme that is apparent in this collection.

There was a handful of poems towards the end that I felt were ill-fitting—partially because of when they were placed within the "narrative" and partially because they all touched on the same subject matter so they felt almost shoved together instead of naturally interspersed throughout the collection. Overall, I think it is a strong collection of poetry and I'd recommend it to any woman feeling an itch under her skin or who is simply weary and tired.

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Warning: these poems may make you laugh, cry, and think. It's a woman's journey - in poetic prose and poems.
It's a wonderful exploration of the inner life and progress of transition. While I disagree with some of her choices on her journey, Sullivan brings to light and life the heart how it feels to reshape her life.

Definitely worth reading.

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Under a gorgeous, vibrant cover, a poetry collection all about leaving, journeying, and arriving unfolds. An interesting section and meditation on Eve (of the Garden of Eden). However, some of the imagery borders on repetitive (lots of fruit at various stages of ripeness held in women’s palms throughout).

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a very strong collection. a few of these were so sweet, i wanted to read them to my roommates, to share a moment of tenderness with them, to feel recognized by certain poems, in particular "safe".

what keeps me from rating this a full 5 stars is the amount of prose poems in here, which i understand is entirely a personal bias and does not reflect the skill of sullivan's publication. i also feel some poems are just too "modern" for my taste, along with feeling like this book was not as fully curated as it could have been.

overall, a good read, with something for everyone in it.

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What a lovely, thought-provoking poetry collection. I found this reminiscent of Mary Oliver's poetry in its appreciation of nature and urging of the reader to get out there and live their life. I enjoyed the more personal aspects of this collection as well. It's a nice balance between the author's personal story/recollections and poetry that feels applicable to/resonates with readers generally -- at least, it felt like it resonated with me. Inspirational, transitional, giving the reader that fresh-start feeling -- I'd highly recommend this collection to anyone in need of a boost of inspiration, motivation, energy, and reassurance.

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Joy Sullivan’s debut book of poems was an absolute delight and one that I will revisit often. Including poems about traveling, finding ourselves, and moving away from conservative religion, Joy’s words are a balm for the soul. For fans of Kate Baer and Mary Oliver.

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Instructions for Traveling West felt like a bunch of mini love letters that so honestly and beautifully capture Joy's origin and evolution through this life thus far. Joy has a special way of whispering into your soul when you read her poems. I feel them in my bones and memories of my own metamorphosis as a woman is evoked. Joy's able to capture this feral joy of venturing into the unknown with her fresh language and unexpected metaphors. She's tender with grief and reckless with joy. I loved this collection of poems and encourage anyone on their own journey with themselves, whether that be North, East, South, or West, to use Instructions for Traveling West as a fearless guide into their unknown.

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Thank you so much for the advance copy of Instructions for Travelling West. This is going down as one of my top reads of all time. Every single poem in this book truly spoke to me on a deep soul level and I will absolutely be reading and re-reading this collection over the years to come. 10 stars!

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