A sharply observed memoir of motherhood and the self, and a love letter to Maine, by a writer Eula Biss calls “witty, sly, critical, inventive” and whose mind Leslie Jamison calls “electric.”

“An absolute stunner: frank, funny, self-aware, constantly surprising.”—George Saunders

That night, in his bed, I spread my son’s palm wide and tried to read it. If the hand was a map that led to a future person, was there any changing the destination?

One day Heidi Julavits sees her son silhouetted by the sun and notices he is at the threshold of what she calls “the end times of childhood.” When did this happen, she asks herself. Who is my son becoming—and what qualifies me to be his guide?

What follows starts to feel like uncharted waters. Rape allegations rock the university campus where she teaches, unleashing questions of justice and accountability. Julavits begins to wonder how to prepare her son to be the best possible citizen of the world he’s about to enter. And what must she learn about herself in order to responsibly steer him.

Looking back to her own childhood in Maine, where she often navigated the coastline in a small boat relying on a decades-old sailing guide, Julavits takes us on an intellectual navigation of the self. Throughout, she intertwines her internal investigation with a wide-ranging exploration of what it means to raise a child in a time full of contradictions and moral complexity. Using the past and present as points of orientation, Directions to Myself examines the messy minutiae of contemporary family life alongside knottier philosophical questions of politics and gender. Through it all, Julavits discovers the beauty and the danger of telling stories as a way to locate ourselves, and help others find us.

Intimate, rigorous, and refreshingly unsentimental about motherhood and parenting, Directions to Myself is a love letter to Maine and a reckoning with the disappearance of childhood—her children’s and her own—that cements Julavits’ reputation as one of the most engaged and innovative nonfiction writers today whose work has been called “fascinating” (The Washington Post), “scathingly funny” (Los Angeles Times), and “exquisite” (The New York Times).