In this wise and provocative book, the renowned sociologist Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot trains her lens on the myriad exits we make in our lives: exits big and small, extraordinary and ordinary, ritualized and unceremonious, quick and protracted, painful and liberating.
Exits are ubiquitous. They are part of the historical narrative of our country and mark the physical landscapes we inhabit; they are braided into the arc of our individual development and laced into our intergenerational relationships; they are shaped by economic crisis, global mobility, and technological innovations. But even though exits are all around us, we tend to ignore and diminish them, often seeing them as signs of failure or retreat, treating them as negative spaces in our life journeys.
For two years, Lawrence-Lightfoot traveled around the country, listening to people tell their stories of leaving, witnessing their rituals of goodbye, and producing the penetrating portraits that have by now become her signature: a gay man who finds home and wholeness after exiting the closet; a sixteen-year-old boy who is forced to leave Iran in the midst of a violent civil war; a Catholic priest who leaves the church he has always been devoted to, the life he has loved, and the work that has been deeply fulfilling; an anthropologist who carefully stages her departure from the field after four years of research; and many more. Lawrence-Lightfoot shares their stories with sympathy and insight, finding the universal patterns that reframe our exit narratives and give them the significance they are due.
“With her framework of grace and insight, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot has added exit lines to her repertoire. In Exit, she is a superb storyteller and a wise guide to the inevitable farewells that punctuate our lives and often set us free.”
Ellen Goodman, author of Paper Trail: Common Sense in Uncommon Times
“In searching for the grace and courage of exits at every stage of the life cycle, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot offers insights into the deeper continuities that exits can affirm, binding us together and emphasizing the meaning in the composition of our lives. She argues the need for our culture to evolve rituals that express these enduring values in facing the unknown.”
Mary Catherine Bateson, author of Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom
"The resonant testimonials Lawrence-Lightfoot spotlights nicely dovetail into a conclusion befitting her research into the inevitability of departures and our individual choice to accept or bemoan them. A finely researched examination that sheds a new light on the catharsis of goodbye."
"Lawrence-Lightfoot has penned an examination of how people exit careers, countries, and even life. Believing that the small departures we make daily prepare us for the large ones—emigration, divorce, death—the author argues that each is a drama of ambivalence, decision-making, and epiphany . . ."