I remember the first time someone asked me “How’s the reentry going?” I thought I might burst with happiness. Here was someone who understood what I was only just beginning to understand – that sometimes “coming home” was difficult and confusing and not all pleasant. And when everyone at “home” expects it to be easy it can be even harder. 

Over the years I’ve read several articles on reentry and at least one other book, but none as thorough as this book title “The Art of Coming Home” by Craig Storti.

Storti goes through all the issues returnees face and how those are different depending on the type of return, the stage of life, family situation, work situation, and more. A military spouse deployed abroad has a different experience returning home than an exchange student, which is also then different from a diplomat’s children who’ve grown up abroad. This book not only addresses what to expect and ways to deal with those things, but also what family and friends can do to help their returning friends. 

One of the biggest pieces for both the returnee and the returnee’s community is to be aware of the struggles and challenges and to be patient. Don’t expect everything to be sunshine and roses. 

After all, what is the meaning of “home”? And what do you do when you look like an insider but feel like an outsider? There’s a lot of grace for cultural mistakes when you are an obvious foreigner. How do you explain something that was life changing for you, but no one else gets?

But one of my favorite things about this book was that while it was primarily focused on the difficulties faced in coming home, it didn’t ever leave you feeling like the travel wasn’t worth it. In fact, the very last sentence of the book is: “Who can imagine astronauts, their space capsule rocking violently at the peak of reentry, wishing they’d never gone to the moon?”  

So, yes, I recommend this book for anyone planning on living in a foreign country, anyone planning on returning to their home country, and anyone with friends who are returning from a foreign country. Maybe just read the sections that apply to your circumstance and stage of life if you’re short on time. 

It gave me a walk down memory lane with my own reentry experiences. If you’d like to hear more about those, the podcast “Between Iraq and a Hard Place” has a couple of episodes (part 1 and part 2) where we share a few of our personal stories about reentry and how we dealt with it. 

Want to be miserable because you’ve had such a great experience? Join us in Iraq!