From Booklist's Starred Review: "[Swick] keenly and empathically observes the world, bringing both a relatably human approach and learned appreciation for the art of travel and of life."
Working as a feature writer in 1976, Thomas Swick falls in love with a visiting Polish student named Hania and soon moves with her to Warsaw. The next decade sees Thomas living in Poland, Greece, and Philadelphia. He declines an invitation to be a Polish informer, sees John Paul II embolden the masses on his first trip back to his homeland since becoming pope, witnesses the rise of Solidarity and the imposition of martial law in Poland, and walks with thousands of Poles on the pilgrimage to Częstochowa, an annual religious rite that blossoms into a nine-day protest march. In 1989, he watches Hania vote in her country’s first free elections since pre-war independence. One month later, he lands his dream job as a travel writer.
Falling into Place is the personal story of a young man’s discovery of the world and his development as a travel writer. It is also a love story, as he and Hania overcome cultural differences, communist bureaucracy, and unhealthy separations. Intertwined with both is the story of the revolution that altered history. With the world’s attention once again turned to Eastern Europe, and a Cold War reality, this memoir can help Americans better understand both.
Thomas Swick was the travel editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel from 1989 to 2008, during which time the newspaper’s name appeared in the first nine editions of The Best American Travel Writing. He is the author of four books, and his work has appeared in national newspapers and magazines, literary journals, and anthologies. He lives with his wife Hania in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
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Doing the work one was meant to do and finding the person one was meant to spend a life with are journeys in every sense of the word. To get to the job, an entry-level assignment for a Trenton newspaper, Swick traversed long distances through his state’s most scenic countryside. To reach Hania, his beloved, a young Polish beauty whose U.S. visa had expired, Swick crossed multiple Eastern European borders at a time when the region was undergoing significant cultural and political unrest. Nothing in his childhood in small-town New Jersey in the 1950s or as a liberal arts college student in the 1970s prepared him for either pursuit or for his self-motivated desire to study the masters of travel writing. Although he amassed an impressive library of legendary writers in the genre, it was his own innate skill, curiosity, and sense of the noteworthy that enabled him to immerse himself in the Polish language and culture as he reunited with Hania. Swick, who would forge a career as a prolific travel writer and editor, keenly and empathically observes the world, bringing both a relatably human approach and learned appreciation for the art of travel and of life.
Falling into Place is such a pleasure to read from beginning to end. Tom Swick has made his living as a travel writer, but in these pages he shows he's as insightful traveling inside the interior of his life as in the world at large, evoking the universal in the particular in both journeys.
It’s difficult to classify Thomas Swick’s Falling into Place. Is it a travelogue? A love story? A Cold War history? It is all of these, and more. Swick’s evocative, often humorous narrative. takes us on a journey behind the Iron Curtain, and deep into the ineffable recesses of the human heart. A true delight.
Thomas Swick’s memoir, Falling into Place, memorably recounts the confluence of two extraordinary states: the author’s own literate, romantic youth and that of Poland at the moment Communism gave way to Solidarity in the 1980s. Travel itself, emerges as the great love and lodestar of this exceptionally well-written bilungsroman: Without the author’s burning desire to see the world, readers wouldn’t have the opportunity to observe one of the great geopolitical movements of the late 20th century through the eyes of a young writer.
2/2/2024, South Florida- SunSentinel: Author Q&A.
11/16/23, Travel Writing World podcast: Thomas Swick joins Jeremy Bassetti to talk about the book.
11/14/23, Deviate with Rolf Potts podcast: Rolf Potts and Thomas Swick discuss the book in episode 232.Link: https://rolfpotts.com/podcast/swick/
12/3/23, The Washington Post: Michael Dirda recommends this in Book World in a feature on books to give this holiday season.