Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom

Ken Ilgunas. New Harvest, $15.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-544-02883-8

As a member of the class of 2006, Ilgunas graduated from the University of Buffalo $32K in debt and with one goal: to get rid of it as fast as possible. Reluctant (and unable) to enter the “Career World,” Ilgunas becomes a tour guide at Camp Coldfoot in Alaska, embarking on a years-long journey to eliminate his financial albatross by living on less. He becomes a jack-of-all-trades at a dingy motel, helps clean up the destruction left behind by Hurricane Katrina in Gulfport, Miss., and works as a ranger in the Alaskan wild. Once debt-free, the author attends graduate school at Duke University, where he applies his “simplify, simplify, simplify” rationale by secretly living in a 1994 Econoline van stationed on a university parking lot. There, Ilgunas would “greet each tribulation as a noble challenge and never as an unwanted adversity. Ilgunas’s chronicle of his lifestyle change is initially readable because of the sheer chutzpah involved, but the youthful energy soon turns on itself. The prose is thicker than pancake batter with similes and metaphors, and in the end, the narrative takes on a haughty, self-congratulatory tone. Agent: Peter and Amy Bernstein, Bernstein Literary Agency. (May)