Wade Rouse is an unlikely modern-day Thoreau. Sure, he’s quit his high-powered job in St. Louis and struck out for the territory on the sparsely populated shores of Lake Michigan, with nothing more than his partner, their dog, a healthy dose of hope, and Walden in hand as a guidebook. But the self-professed neurotic urbanite’s attempts to renounce big-city addictions — Kenneth Cole shoes, Starbucks triple-shot-no-fat-no-whip white mochas, among others — are not always successful. Take the first chapter of this chronicle on adjusting to life in the woods, in which he fends off a wily raccoon’s assault on his trash can, and then his head, with the only two things he never leaves home without: lip shimmer and breath spray. Turns out the latter serves double duty as pepper spray, thwarting the beast long enough to release its toothy grip on Rouse. From there, Rouse ticks off the ten lessons he’s determined to glean from his new life, such as “eschewing the latest entertainment and fashion for simpler pursuits” and “participating in country customs,” both of which he tries desperately to embrace (the ice fishing scene is truly laugh-out-loud funny) and decidedly fails to achieve. His attempts to rediscover religion and redefine the meaning of life and love, however, produce poignant epiphanies. The true success in the book is how Rouse manages to toe the line (feet encased in stylish slides) between hilarity and philosophy, proving that enlightenment can be found in as unlikely a place as a karaoke contest, where he’s reminded of his mother’s teaching, “It’s not where you choose to live; it’s how you choose to live.”
About the Writer
Lydia Dishman is an award-winning writer and editor based in the Southeast.