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Compass Lines

Journeys Toward Home


In essays that traverse latitudes and continents, Compass Lines explores the paths we take toward belonging. Here, broken vehicles mark the porous boundaries between built and natural worlds. Deserted backpacks trace immigration routes along the US-Mexico border. A job fighting wildfire near a ghost town reveals the dangers of a life spent wandering. Slowly, as Messick learns the rhythms of seasons—through wing prints on snow, cupboard shelves stocked for winter, and quiet moments before the birth of his son—he discovers that a connection with the places we inhabit requires both movement and stillness.

From Antarctica to the Arctic, a Cambodia tattoo parlor to the Florida swamps, and from childhood to fatherhood, this deeply felt debut invites readers on a search for the most elusive landscape of all: home.

Cover art by Alaska-based artist Kristin Link.

About the Book

“...explores that shimmering frontier between the exotic and the mundane, and in Compass Lines he tells his story wonderfully well. Messick's voice drew me in—it is wry, warm, and wise. To go or to stay? Messick reveals that the question is the thing, not mutable answers. I really enjoyed this book.”

— SARA WHEELER, author of Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica & The Magnetic North, winner of the Banff Adventure Travel Prize

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“ John Messick's indelible evocations of travel and its delicious paradoxes carry the reader nomadically across the globe before home, in a luminously drawn Alaska, is realized. Messick is the kind of person who vacations in Mongolia—it's true!—but nothing smacks of escapism in this moving collection; here, venturing out affords the narrator an opportunity to examine, with a rueful self-scrutiny, his inner life, rituals worth preserving, and the nature of love and companionship, to name just a few. This memorable journey brims with an earned wisdom that often borders on befuddlement, which, after all, may be its own form of wisdom."

CHRIS DOMBROWSKI, author of The River You Touch: Making a Life on Moving Water

Order Today

Now available through Porphyry Press and  your local bookseller.


You can request signed copies direct from the publisher. 


Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and anywhere books are sold. 

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