The Hobo Diaries By Holly Nadler


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You can idyll for decades on a gorgeous island, comfy, safe and warm, immersed like a Medieval mystic on a life-long spiritual path, and all of a sudden it feels as if you’ve been dumped on a water slide with a sign that reads: This life is out of your price range, sweetheart! Splash!! . . Where ya gonna live? In the spring of 2018 writer / reporter Holly Nadler gave up her year-round apartment on Martha’s Vineyard even as everyone cried out, “Don’t do it! You’ll never find another one!” And they were right! Follow her around the Vineyard with her dear old thug of a Boston terrier as she lodges in a lilac-walled cottage which is enchanting except for the fact that it has no running water. After that come several seasons with her impossible and dementing 98 year-old mother in Palm Desert CA, a month in Edinburgh where she’s banished from a retreat on the Holy Isle, then back on the Vineyard for what she comes to think of as another Summer of Discombobulation. Is it possible to be a hobo and be happy? Well, yeah, as long as you can make people laugh as you write about it. And does it help redefine your spiritual path? Well, sure, because you’re a life-long seeker, and you’ll never lose sight of the Divine . . . see it? It’s just around the next bend in the road. Or the next one?

1 review for The Hobo Diaries By Holly Nadler

  1. Steve Donoghue

    The Hobo Diaries: Down and Out on Martha’s Vineyard by Holly Nadler, Ozark Mountain Publishing 2022, 159 pages, $15

    Holly Nadler’s feel-good memoir The Hobo Diaries: Down and Out on Martha’s Vineyard” is a bright and sunny reading experience, but it starts with a straightforward horror-story scenario that will send chills down the spine of virtually anybody who’s spent any time on the Island. At the age of 70, and after years of owning and renting Vineyard houses and apartments, she decides to give notice on her charming Oak Bluffs apartment… without a Plan B.

    If you’re cold-sweating at the mere thought of such a situation, rest assured: Ms. Nadler knew perfectly well how extreme her decision was and how “every last woeful tale of so doing always leads to the poor dude finding herself obliged to move away, far away, maybe to some dusty inland county whee she’s lucky to win a job as a Walmart greeter.”

    Ms. Nadler had a pressing reason for risking such a fate: she wanted to move out to the California desert in order to move in with her feisty 90-something mother. But when conflict with her sister soon sent her back to the Vineyard, her friends (and thousands of Facebook acquaintances) urged her to try to rescind her notice to give up her apartment — or maybe investigate moving to senior housing.

    Instead of trying either of these, MS. Nadler indulges in “the gypsy gene that keeps us moving around in a life of pure exhilarating romantic adventures.” In these pages, she narrates the various adventures she and her elderly Boston terrier Huxley have in the wake of her sudden self-imposed homelessness.

    These adventures run the gamut of fun unpredictability, from being asked to run a beloved old used bookstore to the familiar mental struggles of sorting your stuff on the eve of a big house-move. Ms. Nadler contemplates her beloved pieces of ornate sea glass, always with the literary shadings that fill these pages.

    “Aldous Huxley wrote that to achieve full transformation we must ‘empty the memory.’” she writes. “Duh! Superb advice, but over time all that was material is and has been emptied from my present life, all except for these vessels of sea glass, and it seems that even if I do one day become the actual bag lady that I’m impersonating on this moving day, I’ll still be schlepping these heavy translucent containers over hill and dale and the sidewalks of town in a battered cart.”

    Ms. Nadler’s storytelling sparkles throughout. In vivid and often raunchy prose, she narrates her happy-go-lucky adventures with the eye of a novelist and the pacing of a veteran comedian. Many of her stories touch on serious matters. She doesn’t shy away from the harsh undertones of some of her subjects — particularly the one at the center of the original decision that kicks off the book: the high cost of living on this “five-star Island.”

    Ms. Nadler writes, “As the venerable saying goes, ‘If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.’ Don’t ask the price of ANYTHING on MV.”

    “I knew this year of living homelessly would teach me some neat tricks about life,” she writes, reflecting on her chaotic adventures. “A year and a half on the Vagabond Trail, after a life of one long Vagabond Trail, might have kicked some sense and strength into my princess-y backside. And did it?”

    The jury’s still out, but the feeling of freedom and wanderlust is appealingly strong in this memoir.

    “I’m a gypsy pure and simple,” Ms. Nadler writes, “a vagabond always ready for the open road.”

    She might have dealt with her share of personal demons along the course of her adventures, but thanks to her vibrant storytelling skills, readers will be smiling when they finish the book — and maybe they’ll be tempted to go on a ramble or two themselves.

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