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Near the Exit

Travels with the Not-So-Grim Reaper

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Westminster John Knox Press
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"This book’s journey to spiritual places near and far is worth taking." — Library Journal, starred review 

Lori Erickson travels to "grim" locations at home and abroad and explores death through the lenses of other cultures.

After her brother died unexpectedly and her mother moved into a dementia-care facility, spiritual travel writer and Episcopal deacon Lori Erickson felt called to a new quest: to face death head on, with the eye of a tourist and the heart of one who is grieving and facing mortality.

Blending memoir, spirituality, and travel, Near the Exit examines how different cultures past and present have confronted and still confront death, from Egypt’s Valley of the Kings and Mayan temples, to a Colorado cremation pyre and Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations, to Maori settlements and tourist-destination graveyards. Erickson reflects on mortality—the ways we avoid it, the ways we cope with it, and the ways life is made more precious by accepting it—in places as far away and exotic as New Zealand and as close and "mundane" as the nursing home up the street.

Throughout her personal journey and her travels, Erickson helps us to see that one of the most life-affirming things we can do is to invite death along for the ride.

Perfect for book clubs! Download the  FREE Reader Guide: Questions and Topics for Discussion!

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Lori Erickson is one of America's top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She is the author of The Soul of the Family Tree, Near the Exit (which won a Silver INDIES Award for 2019 Religion Book of the Year from Foreword Reviews), and Holy Rover. Her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, National Geographic Traveler, and Better Homes & Gardens, among others. She lives in Iowa City, Iowa, with her husband, Bob Sessions.

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"A helpful reminder that no one escapes this life alive, Lori Erickson’s Near the Exit is a travel text and an act of religious exploration, presenting spiritual meditations from some of the holiest places on Earth....Showing how coping mechanisms and spiritual practices from around the world can be valuable for learning more about our own lives and eventual deaths, Near the Exit is an ideal guidebook to facing the inevitable with religious or spiritual perspective." —Foreword Reviews 

“Open-hearted and soulful, never morbid, and often uplifting, Near the Exit is a colorful travelogue of mortality. I’ve read many books on illness and dying; few have made me smile as often and see the uniquely human richness of the final chapters of life.”
—Ira Byock, author of Dying Well and The Best Care Possible and Active Emeritus Professor of Medicine, the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth


Near the Exit is a delicious, funny, and quite moving read. Part actual travelogue, it’s also a spiritual exploration of death. The writing is stellar; the reflections on the unexpected nature of grief and the way Lori Erickson plumbs ‘seeming coincidence’ grabbed my attention and didn’t let it go. Highly recommend for people of any or no faith practice.”
—Jennifer Grant, author of Love You More and Maybe I Can Love My Neighbor Too


“Erickson is our expert tour guide as she takes us on a colorful journey of the world’s sacred death rituals and destinations. Her vivid prose is our companion and invitation to the spiritual packing we needn’t delay until the night before departure.”
—J. Dana Trent, author of Dessert First: Preparing for Death While Savoring Life

Near the Exit is not a typical book on death and dying from a Christian perspective. It is an intriguing exploration of late life and death that will sometimes cause you to squirm or to laugh out loud. Always though, it will prompt you to think deeply about what it is to be mortal. Author Lori Erikson fearlessly weaves ancient perspectives and cultural expressions about death gleaned from her own travel experiences into the intimate stories of her mother’s life in a nursing home in Iowa. Near the Exit will appeal to anyone who struggles to understand the mystery of death and dying.”
—Missy Buchanan, advocate, writer, and speaker for older adults


“What happens when a gifted travel writer combines her interests in travel, religion, and death? The result is a fascinating book called Near the Exit, with trips to Rome, a Day of the Dead celebration, pyramids in Egypt and Mexico, nursing homes, a Maori ceremony in New Zealand, a farm in Iowa, and more. Beautiful writing about a trip we all will someday take.”
—Brian D. McLaren, author and activist

“When I first picked up Near the Exit, I found that, much to my relief, I had not commenced to read another grief book. Instead it’s a travelogue that explores a wide range of sacred sites—from the exotic (and musty) pyramids of Egypt’s Valley of the Kings to the Iowa nursing home where Lori’s elderly mother navigates the labyrinth of dementia—all characterized by a light-hearted and curious inquiry about what death means in various cultural and spiritual contexts.

As one who has been hanging out with the Grim Reaper more than I care to lately, I took this book in like a breath of fresh air. I hope Near the Exit will help others navigate mortality as Lori Erickson meets us wherever we are and gently invites us on a guided global tour.”
—Kate Sheehan Roach, Director of Content,


“Is it possible to become comfortable with the thought of one’s own death? Lori Erickson sets out on a fantastic voyage to explore the answer, and, best of all, we get to go with her. From the depths of Egypt’s Great Pyramids to the wide-open spiritual expanse that is Crestone, Colorado, Near the Exit shows us that it is possible not only to chart the landscape of mortality but also to make it gloriously our own. A hopeful and inspiring book.”
—Sophfronia Scott, author of This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World

"This book’s journey to spiritual places near and far is worth taking."
Library Journal, starred review

“Engaging and approachable for all.” —Bob Cornwall, Ponderings on a Faith Journey blog

“Using a variety of vignettes, combined with actual global travel experiences with Erickson’s philosopher partner, factual history, anthropology and personal reflections, all spiced with wit and humanity in digestible form, we find ourselves virtually born aloft on a magic-carpet ride that provides a wider view of mortality. A must for every Death Café, Reading Group and, hopefully, family discussion.”  Franciscan Magazine

What’s important about Erickson’s work is the cross-cultural perspective and the attention to mortality that is crucial for living consciously.

Presbyterian Outlook

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