Member Reviews

I enjoyed most of the poems...but after a bit they got a bit repetitive. I thought the premise of the collection would be interesting, but personally a lot of them did not resonate with me. This is nothing against Instructions for Traveling West, but just my personal opinion.

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This book is like a conversation with an old friend from out of town- warm, generous, funny, and fresh. The author's associative logic captured me so quickly. Phrases like "exhausted citrus" or "rusty seabirds" offered a retreat from daily life.

It’s retrospective air feels familiar but tells tales of things you’ve never seen - fruits you’ve never savored. Lush descriptions of mangos and tropical fruit hover on the pages. But there is also the familiar, farm lands in Ohio, rainy trails in Oregon woods.

And just like that friend from out town, after the conversation finishes you’ll be left with a glow, yet also know why you can’t fit all the puzzle pieces of your life together anymore- those aren’t your pieces, that’s not your game. It’s a tremor that shakes, and dusts off your heart, ready for next. "...the future is now full of doors I won't walk through." Thankfully, the book is formatted in sections that help move from upending the safety and sentimentality of society's agreed on shape of success to something more specific, etching a more personal way of encountering love and loss and aging. I love the momentum of the finish of this book of poetry so much, especially Sullivan's invitation to "Rise like a stupid miracle flung upon some sun-fragrant rock, shocked and land-hungry." It's dynamic in that way.

While it's easy to assume from the title of this book might follow the format of instructional self-helpy books that wrap themselves in lyrical prose but really have a dogmatic formula that this might be more of the same, that assumption is far from true. Instead, Sullivan does an expert job of show not tell. She explores many universal internal conflicts, of leaving lovers, of driving towards a place hoping for it to connect you with reality, of body shame or lack of connection for sure. But her exploration of them through her own beautiful analysis invites the reader to do the same. It's as if she breadcrumbed a path out of the woods of confusion for the reader with these dynamic lines. By focusing her gaze on the questions not the answers her writing avoids the pedagogy of many current writers. Lines such as "who whispered that your soul's monarch was dead?" invite questioning by a reader. I had to read this in small bites occasionally, to savor these lines.

I will definitely be counting down the days until I have a hard copy (I've already pre-ordered it). I'm sure the hard copy will soon be as dog eared and highlighted as my copies of Plath and Dickenson.

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I think that this was perhaps the greatest poetry collection I have ever read.

When I was in high school, an early poetry reader and aspiring writer, I became obsessed with the book “Between You and These Bones”. I did not feel fulfilled with my own writing and poetry career until I could hold my best piece up beside my favourite from that book and say; “yes, this is the standard I have been working towards”. I fear that this book may be the equivalent of that in my adult life. I also fear that I will never be able to have such a relationship with words and my own thoughts that I could conceive a book so effortlessly all-encompassing, warm-blooded, and glittering as this. Questioning your understanding of love? Religion? A woman’s choice whether or not to have children? The British Monarchy? This book will cure you. There is something so sharp and visceral about it, but I also feel so comforted and understood. I haven’t recognized myself in poetry in a long time, and this book has put the breath back into my lungs as both as writer and a reader. What an incredible anthology.

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I was so excited to have been offered an ARC of Instructions for Travelling West, and it certainly didn’t disappoint, Joy has a way of writing that cracks all your ribs open but when you think you’ll then find pain you just find a cathartic ache.
Her writing is beautiful, Tomatoes is probably my favourite. I don’t know how she distills down human emotions and feelings into the lines of a poem but she does it so well. A book I shall buy for my shelf!

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A deeply intimate collection of poems about love, loss, self-discovery, disappointment, identity, fear, loneliness, and so much more, even the global climate crisis.

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I enjoyed reading this book. Part 5 of the book was one of favorite sections. I will say that some of the poems were a bit more of vignettes, but I loved it. The pieces about religion were interesting. As always some poems were relatable while others were not. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book an HD look forward to reading big more of Joy Sullivan’s work.

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What an absolutely unexpected surprise! I am incredibly grateful to Rachel Tockstein of PRH for sending this arc my way.

I have to admit that until very recently, I haven’t sought out poetry books. I didn’t know what to expect with this one, but Sullivan’s vignette-style poems just made me want to dive deeper into a genre I’ve largely sidestepped for years. I wasn’t planning on feeling so connected to her and the way she wrote. Incidentally, I am also from Ohio, and also moved to the Pacific Northwest, and these unexpected overlaps that I shared with the author truly magnified how connected I felt to the writing.

Sullivan has a way with words that embody not only her own experience but can be taken an applied to the experiences of so many. With themes including fitting in, friendships, family, change, heartbreak, career transition and struggle, gratitude, and self-exploration, there is so much here that a wide range of readers can relate to.

I’m looking forward to more collections from Sullivan in the future!

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I don't read a lot of poetry but the cover of this book drew me in. I appreciated Sullivan's words and how the poems told stories. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. Four stars.

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2.75 rounded up bc I’m pretty sure it’s a debut and there aren’t too many reviews yet and I just don’t want to be THAT person
Really only about half of this was poetry with interspersed vignettes, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I wasn’t expecting it. I thought there were a few really great poems in here but I didn’t care much for prose and some poems didn’t work for me.

It’s possible I wasn’t the right audience, although I loved the premise of this and I do love poetry. This just wasn’t my jam but I’m sure it will be other people’s.

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