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Learning to Float: The Journey of a Woman, a Dog and Just Enough Men    by Lili Wright order for
Learning to Float
by Lili Wright
Order:  USA  Can
Broadway, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

Lili Wright's Learning To Float is an autobiographical memoir of her years of the single life (she is married and has a child now) and how she found her way to what she wanted in life, relationships and otherwise. The bright, breezy cover of the book - with Lili zipping along in a convertible with a faithful chocolate Labrador in the backseat - is how she began her journey, literally. She borrows her boyfriend's dog and hits the road with plans to stop at prior 'haunting grounds' where she lived and worked waitressing jobs in her early twenties. Her plan is to drive from Maine down to Key West and she is driving solo, with the exception of Bravado, her boyfriend's chocolate Labrador Retriever.

These outings involve spontaneous and often precarious lodging situations, with Lili pitching her first tent on a campground, sleeping on the sofa of a stranger in another town, and using the beach house of an acquaintance that is teeming with a huge family when she arrives. Lili is a resourceful, independent sort and she is able to go with the flow in these situations. As she takes time for self-exploration, we read about her prior relationships with men, how her road trip will help her sort out her current life, and her difficulty to commit to her current long-term boyfriend (who is a kind, sensible veterinarian, but lacks the spontaneity and lusty nature of Lili's current unreliable lover).

While at times, I was tempted to feel irritated by Lili, who seemed so lost and irresponsible, I respected the fact that she was navigating life on her very own course, while so many people live for others. I enjoyed reading about Lili's adventure in self-exploration and consider her a brave person and even, in a certain sense, an inspiration. While Lili's life is not unusual, she shares her experiences with clarity and stark honesty, and does not avoid sensitive facts (e.g. contracting herpes, her infidelity, an assault upon her by a stranger). When Lili reaches Key West, she predictably gets her life mentally straightened out; and while Learning To Float is not a book that I found particularly insightful, Lili's journey made for an interesting read.

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