Friday, November 30, 2012


Horns by Joe Hill (2010)
Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk, doing terrible things. When he wakes up in the morning he finds that his horrible hangover is accompanied by another strange by-product of his evening: a pair of horns growing out of his head. He soon finds the horns come with a strange power. Everyone he speaks to tells him their secret, private urges, whether he wants to hear them or not. As Ig tries to understand what has become of him, the reader learns about his past : his upbringing, how he fell in love with his girlfriend Merrin, and her violent murder, of which he was accused. As Ig falls deeper into the rabbit hole, so the reader falls with him becoming completely caught up in this twisted, tortured tale coming from one of the most talented writers of horror today.

Initially, I found the whole premise of this book a little ridiculous. But I kept hearing about how good it was and I'm so glad I finally folded and picked up a copy. It was strange and weird and a little creepy, and I never was able to predict where it was going.

For those of you unfamiliar with Joe Hill, you should know that his father is Stephen King, and the apple has not fallen far from the tree. Hill has a style all his own, but now and then I was reminded of King, perhaps by the sympathetic way the characters were portrayed - King is a master at character development and apparently that trait has been passed down to the next generation. I wanted the best for Ig, who was a decent guy - a very young guy, even - who really needed something good to happen to him. Although Ignatius was the one sprouting horns, he wasn't the real devil here and I loved every moment of that character's true nature coming to light.

Horns isn't a happy story, nor is it realistic (obviously), but if you're in the mood for some twisted fun you could do much worse. The movie is being filmed now, and stars Daniel Radcliffe as Ig, a casting choice which I think just might be brilliant.

Hill's collection of short stories, 20th Century Ghosts, was fantastic and I liked the first volume of his graphic novel series Locke and Key, though the art style wasn't exactly to my taste. After also enjoying Horns a great deal, I might be hooked. Now I'm hoping to read Hill's previous novel Heart-Shaped Box, and I'll be looking out for the forthcoming NOS4A2.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Divergent by Veronica Roth (2012)

In Beatrice's city, people are divided into 5 factions: Amity, Candor, Erudite, Dauntless, and her own, Abnegation. All 16-year-olds must take an aptitude test to see which faction they are most suited for, and then choose a faction. Beatrice makes a difficult choice, but one that she believes is right. Along with the other teens who have chosen this faction, she must go through an initiation process that will test her in ways she could not have imagined. But Beatrice - now renamed Tris - is also hiding a secret, one that puts her life in grave danger.

I was fascinated by the idea of the factions. Each one embodies a particular quality that the members feel is most important and they take it to an extreme degree. Amity values peace, Candor honesty, Erudite knowledge, Dauntless courage, and Abnegation selflessness. Throughout the book, I couldn't help by think about which faction I would choose. It's really hard to pick ONE quality and forego all others: why can't I be both smart AND brave? Which I suppose is the whole problem with this setup.

Of course nothing is as clear-cut as the society leaders would like you to think, as per usual in a dystopia. Some factions have lost their way, and trouble is secretly brewing. I won't say anything more, because this mostly happens later in the book as setup for book two. (Did I mention this is a series? Did I even have to? Of course it is.)

Focusing on Tris's initiation is enough excitement for one book. The story is fast-paced, with a little bit of romance thrown in, and is just as compelling as any dystopia out there. If you liked The Hunger Games, this will likely appeal to you.

Every time I think I'm burned out on young adult dystopias, I read another one and get sucked in all over again. Divergent is no exception - I've been wanting to read it all year, and I'm so glad I finally did. I'm dying to know what's going on in some of the other factions, and outside of the city. I can't wait to get a copy of Insurgent!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ask the Passengers

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (2012)

Astrid moved from the city to a small town with her family when she was 10 and her sister was 9. At 17, she still doesn't feel like she quite fits in, and now she has a big secret. She is falling for a girl she works with and can't tell anyone. She can't talk to her best friend, who is gay and will want to put her in a box when she still isn't quite sure if she fits there. She can't talk to her distant, perfectionist mother or her stoner father. So she spends hours in her backyard lying on the picnic table watching planes go by, sending all the passengers her love and asking them questions she doesn't feel comfortable asking anyone else. And she looks to Socrates for answers - Frank Socrates, who keeps popping up in the most unexpected places.

Short chapters revealed snippets of lives of the passengers flying above, an unexpected addition that worked well. I also love how King integrated a school project from Astrid's humanities class - The Socrates Project - which made her think a lot about her life and helped her work out her beliefs. Most young adult novels don't acknowledge the effects classes can have on teens' lives, and I loved that she included this.

Coming out stories aren't anything new, but unsurprisingly (if you've read A.S. King before), this was different and fresh and clever. Astrid was surrounded by people who wouldn't be upset that she was gay, but that wasn't the problem. The problem is that she didn't know yet and didn't want to be pressured to label herself so until she was ready so she had to hide her feelings (and her girlfriend). Additionally, her girlfriend Dee was very pushy, pressuring Astrid towards sex she wasn't ready for. So not only was Astrid confused about her sexuality, she was uncomfortable with the way her relationship was going.

Astrid's family is worthy of their own book about dysfunction. Her dad has an unsatisfying job and spends his free time smoking pot in the garage. Her mother is a workaholic who enjoys "Mommy and Me" evenings with Astrid's little sister Ellis, in which they dress up and go to a fancy restaurant and get drunk together. Ellis endures these bizarre outings because it's the only way to maintain a relationship with her mother and she's afraid of being left in the cold like Astrid, who their mother barely acknowledges anymore.

I pretty much ate this book. I read it in a day and it only took me that long because of pesky obligations like work. Here is my only problem with this author: as I read, I mark the pages I want to go back to later, pages with significant quotes, clever ideas, or funny moments. With A.S. King's books, going back to read what I've marked pretty much means re-reading the whole book. A.S. King, why must you be so awesome? Also, keep being awesome!

Ask the Passengers just came out, so go get yourself a copy now.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Above All Things

Above All Things by Tanis Rideout (2013)

In 1924, George Mallory embarked upon his third attempt to be the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest. His past failures haunting him, he nonetheless pushed on, determined to succeed so he could finally be satisfied and return to his family. Meanwhile, his wife Ruth waited at home with the children, missing George terribly, regretting their argument about his leaving the family once again, and trying to endure his absence. Alternating between their stories, the historical novel followed George through his expedition on Everest, and Ruth through one day at home. The result is a beautifully rendered tale of love and obsession.

First off, this is a gorgeous cover, despite the beheaded lady, and it actually fits the story. But there is much to love inside the book as well. The 1920s are a fascinating period (and very trendy right now), but this is a different aspect of it than we usually experience. While Americans were enjoying jazz, making bathtub gin, and moving to Paris to write novels, George Mallory and his crew were embarking on this decidedly unglamorous and life-threatening quest. Somewhere I heard it described it as The Paris Wife meets Into Thin Air, and I think that's quite apt.

The chapters all had headings with some sort of measurement - for Ruth's chapters it was the time of day and for George's the altitude. The slow, measured pacing captured what each character was going through. Ruth struggled to get through the day, anxious for word from her husband, trying to fill her time to just make it go by so she'd be closer to his return. In the harsh climate of Everest, the thin air and freezing wind hindered every movement. Forced to climb at a slow, plodding pace, the climbers had to take great care since any false move could be their last. In both cases, the characters focused a great deal on their relationship and their pasts, not just the events at hand. George was haunted by his time in the war, being forced to recall some of the most unpleasant parts such as putting on an oxygen mask and being reminded of gas attacks.

I don't know how accurate the author's descriptions of climbing the mountain were, but they felt incredibly real to me. The biting cold, the brisk smell in one's nostrils, the crunch of snow underfoot, the stiffness of one's body after sleeping in a tent in a frigid climate. These scenes were beautifully contrasted with Ruth's experiences of domesticity back in England with the children.

Initially, I hard a difficult time getting into the novel because I simply wasn't in the mood for this sort of book, but Rideout's prose is captivating and the story hard to resist. I became so caught up in it that I read the final 150 pages in one evening, staying up late to finish.

I received this review copy as part of Penguin's First Flights program. Above All Things will be released in February 2013, which is why you probably haven't heard about it yet. But you will.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Where We Belong

Where We Belong by Emily Giffin (2012), narrated by Orlagh Cassidy

Marian is 36, a successful tv producer in New York, and has an equally successful boyfriend. But despite appearances, not all is perfect in her life. One night, after an especially strained conversation with her boyfriend about their relationship, her doorbell rings. Expecting it to be Peter, Marian is startled to find instead an 18-year-old girl she's never seen before. Except that she has....and now Marian's world is forever changed. I'll leave it at that, so as not to ruin the plot for you.

Chapters alternate between Marian and teenaged Kirby, two very different lives and very different perspectives. The characters were well developed and easy to visualize. Although I sympathized with Marian in the early parts of the book, I unexpectedly began to dislike her more and more as it went on. I have no idea if this is intentional or if I was just feeling especially judgmental. But it didn't matter because I really liked Kirby so much it more than made up for it. (And Marian gained much of my respect back in the end, so it's all good.)

Giffin has delivered another great story and although it was somewhat, but not entirely predictable, it was immensely satisfying. Unlike a lot of chick lit books, there was little romance. All the good stuff was in flashbacks, which didn't lessen the effect at all. But that's mostly not what it was about. It was more about the choices you make and have to live with, how they affect others, and the importance of honesty. I've consistently liked all of Giffin's books (I've read all but one so far); she's not afraid to tackle difficult problems, and she does a great job of capturing all the subtleties of real life. She doesn't tie it all up neatly in a bundle at the end, but still draws each story to a satisfying conclusion and leaves her characters irrevocably changed for the better.

I make a point to listen to Emily Giffin's books on audio if possible. They are just the sort of books I enjoy that way, and this one was no exception. Although there were a few times I thought she slipped into another character's voice a bit, the overall experience was satisfying. And! It turns out I've listened to this narrator before, more than once. I really need to start paying attention to these things. Orlagh Cassidy also narrated Beth Harbison's Thin Rich Pretty, which I KNOW I enjoyed way more than I would have if I had read it in print. Even more surprisingly, she was responsible for the beautiful performance of The Piano Teacher. I would never have guessed, since that voice was so British and classy-like. It also wasn't the sort of book I usually listen to on audio, and I loved it. This makes me feel better about my next audiobook choice, a crime novel which is coincidentally also narrated by Cassidy. She is just everywhere.

Audio or not, if you've liked Giffin's other books - or chick lit at all - then surely you will like Where We Belong. It's one of her best.

Friday, November 16, 2012

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (1962)

Mary Katherine Blackwood and her sister Constance live alone in their family's house. The rest of the family is dead. Mary Katherine, also called Merricat, narrates the strange story of their lives and how they came to be living by themselves, outcasts shunned by the villagers. It's a dark and strange story, told by a narrator who is obviously a bit off her rocker.

The plot is best revealed in Jackson's skillful way so I won't talk much about it here. The best thing about it is the creepy, gothic atmosphere. Merricat's eccentricity adds a great deal because we know she's not quite right but are dependent upon her to tell the story. She is a girl of ritual and superstition, going to town only on certain days, burying objects in the yard and nailing books to trees to ward off...I'm not even sure what. She also keeps saying she is not allowed to do certain things, but it's unclear why or who is not allowing her to do them.

Mary Katherine and Constance's relationship is strange and co-dependent. Constance never ever lets herself be seen by anyone from the village, although she seems a bit more down-to-earth than Mary Katherine. They are weirdly close, regularly telling each other how much they love each other and how happy they are. It's as though they just want to remain together, isolated from the world, for the rest of their lives. But Constance seems like she'd be happy to rejoin the world if it weren't for her vaguely-threatening sister. Creepy.

Every once in a while I'll read a book and desperately wish that I had written it, and this is one of those books. I can't explain why, except that it just the perfect combination of big old house, family secrets, sinister children, and mental illness. Oh, and a cat. Kind of a creepy cat, now that I think about it. Anyhow, it has all my favorite elements of a good story (lacking only a stern governess, which here would ruin the story.) I also wish I had read this for a book group, because I'd really like to discuss it with someone, particularly those bits that would be spoilers if I wrote about them here.

All around an excellent book. Have you read it? It's only about 150 pages, so it doesn't take long at all, and is absolutely worth it!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Long Walk

The Long Walk by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman) (1979)

Every year, 100 teenage boys gather at the most northern point in Maine to begin the Long Walk. They must stay on the road, keep moving at least 4 mph, and not interfere with each other. If they break the rules they get three warnings before getting a "ticket," a euphemism for being shot. They keep walking south, as far as it takes for there to be only one person left walking. That person is the winner.

Though it's a race to the death, all the participants are willing volunteers. Ray Garraty has joined the Walk this year, for reasons he never seems quite sure of. He also isn't convinced he'll win, especially after sizing up his competition. Yet he just keeps walking. Through his exhaustion, his pain, his doubts, his fear - what else can he do but continue to walk?

The novel focuses entirely on the event at hand, never stepping back to explain the big picture. What has happened in the world that this brutal race has come to exist? Why do people volunteer for it? What exactly are the Squads that keep being mentioned, and that took Ray Garraty's father away? A tiny bit is revealed: "In the old days, before the Change and the Squads, when there was still millionaires, they used to set up foundations and build libraries and all that good shit." The Long Walk must be just one strange element of a very different world, and I was dying to know in what other ways it differed from our own reality.

What I love about King's writing - and what makes it creepy or terrifying or exhilarating - is that he knows how to make us empathize with his characters. I don't know why Ray Garraty joined the Long Walk exactly, what his motivations were, whether or not they were noble, but he is real to me and I wanted things to turn out ok for him because he's a good guy, and nobody deserves to be shot in the middle of the road for getting a charley horse. It was sad when any of the walkers died, because I cared about them. Sometimes they cared about each other too, even though they were competing to the death. There were some incredibly powerful scenes in which one boy would help another, or they'd stick together in unexpected ways.

This isn't a supernatural book, but one of psychological endurance. That is horrifying enough. Living every moment of the Long Walk with Ray, as he gets to know the other participants, even befriending some of them, knowing that only one of them will live through it - well, it's fascinating and scary and expertly written. I'm sure it's just as powerful today as when it was first published in 1979. If you like Stephen King but missed this one, go back and read it - you'll be glad you did.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (2008)

Disreputable History remains one of my favorite young adult novels, and Frankie may well be my favorite YA heroine. I already reviewed this book a little over a year ago, but since I just re-read it for my Not-So-Young Adult book group for work I thought I'd add a few thoughts.

I loved the concept of the panopticon, introduced early in the book. In her class "Cities, Art, and Protest," Frankie learned that architect Jeremy Bentham designed (but never built) a prison that would allow watchmen to see all the prisoners without them knowing whether or not they were being watched. This means they would constantly feel like they're being watched whether or not they actually were, and this paranoia would reduce the amount of actual watching needed. Michel Foucault applied this idea to Western society because so many of our institutions operate like a panopticon - hospitals, factories, offices, schools. Like Alabaster Prep. This concept became a theme throughout the novel, and was helpful to Frankie as she planned her mal-doings.

I think what struck me the most upon a second reading is just how calculating Frankie is. Planning large-scale pranks without anyone (including the participants) knowing who is behind them is a challenge that requires a fairly high level is scheming, of course. But holding together a relationship with the head of the organization you are undermining without appearing to be a clingy or bitchy girlfriend also requires careful planning. During several uncomfortable conversations with Matthew, Frankie thought about what she wanted, what he wanted, and how to get him to do what she wanted without feeling like he is being manipulated or pressured by his girlfriend. She thought about how pathetic girls somehow seemed around their boyfriends, and how transparent their desperation. A lot would go through Frankie's mind in the few seconds she had to formulate thoughts during a conversation.

In my earlier review, I mentioned Frankie's feminism, which is more nuanced upon a second reading. (And I should mention that my first "reading" was on audio, and therefore I probably missed a few things.) There is a scene in which Frankie's roommate Trish told her that she was uninterested in the exclusive boys' club parties, preferring instead to bake fruit crumbles. Although Trish was just doing what she preferred to do, Frankie was horrified that not only was Trish lessening the chances of continued invitations to these parties, but she was leading them to expect fresh dessert upon their return.  It's so easy to see how Frankie comes to these conclusions, yet she keeps being trapped by her own logic. She doesn't want to be manipulated by boys, and so makes decisions based not on what she wants, but on not wanting to be manipulated, which is of course just another type of manipulation. But Frankie is still a teenage girl, and despite her over-analysis of every situation, when Matthew compliments her "most of her simply felt happy that he had put his arm around her and told her he thought she was pretty."

Frankie was drawn to Matthew and his friends because their elite and moneyed status freed them from so many of the constraints that applied to others. Yet they're not nearly as smart as she is, nor as socially aware. Matthew criticizes Frankie for overthinking, and seems displeased when she acts unconventionally. As much as Frankie doesn't want to be "put into a box" by Matthew and his friends or do what they want her to do, she is desperate to be accepted by them, to be one of the boys. Because the male gender is more powerful in her view, she needs them to legitimize her as an equal. And although she can't accept the patriarchal status quo, her constant drive to shake things up contributes to her unhappiness. The more I think about it, Frankie's situation at Alabaster Prep is just a microcosm of feminism in society.

Oh dear. I appear to have written an academic treatise. There is a lot going on in this book, and a great deal of fodder for discussion and analysis. And still some people can't seem to take young adult fiction seriously. They don't know what they're missing!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Knitting

I came very close to ripping out my Jack-in-the-box Mittens. My mood has been of the ripping-out sort recently, what with the Mottled Rib Sweater fiasco and that nameless sock I started and hadn't even gotten around to telling you about before frogging it completely. The Jack-in-the-box Mitten I started had been languishing in my knitting basket and I decided I needed to face it one way or the other.

Even when I started it, I wasn't crazy about the wrist ribbing pattern. Then as I went on, I realized the mitten isn't knit tightly enough to be as warm as I would like it. I had just about talked myself into trashing the project entirely when I pulled it out and realized that the first mitten was closer to being done than I remembered, so I spent an hour or so just finishing it and starting the second one.

Here's a close-up of the offensive ribbing.

It's a little fussy. I can't explain why I didn't just knit plain ribbing instead of what the pattern called for. Maybe I should make it a goal for 2013 to get out of my lazy mindset and actually modify a pattern rather than knit it as written and then complain about it.

One thing that saved this project for me - in addition to the fact that I was farther along on it than I had realized -is that I quite like the cable pattern.

Cables are just so satisfying, aren't they?

If I can get my nose out of a book for two seconds, I may actually finish this before Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Slender Thread

A Slender Thread by Katharine Davis (2010)

Margot and her older sister Lacey have always been close. From their early summer days at Bow Lake, through Margot's difficult marriage, Lacey has always been the strong older sister who helped Margot and cheered her on. But when Lacey is diagnosed with a form of dementia that will slowly rob her of the ability to use and understand language, the two women and their families must deal with her disease, as the slender threads that bind them together grow more and more taut.

Lacey has twin teenage daughters getting ready for college, and a loving husband named Alex. Margot and Lacey have known Alex since their childhood days at Bow Lake, and early in the book there are hints that Margot may once have had feelings for him. Now, Margot lives with Oliver, who is finding success as an artist. He wants to marry Margot but she is resistant because of her bad first marriage. It was then that she stopped making her own art, but now as her family struggles with Lacey's illness, Margot once again begins painting. Lacey is also an artist, but with fiber - she expresses her creativity through weaving beautiful tapestries.

The first couple of chapters felt a bit stiff and awkward, but I soon started getting into the story. I thought it would be about the disease, but it was mostly about how Lacey and her family dealt with the diagnosis and the ways it changed their lives. There are obvious ways, but also more subtle changes and tension in all of their relationships. We didn't ever get Lacey's perspective; most of the story was from Margot's view, but occasionally we got Oliver or Alex as well. There was a LOT of internal thought and reminiscing, especially Margot's thoughts about their long-ago summers at Bow Lake.

I had just a couple of minor annoyances, like Lacey's stubborn refusal to tell her daughters about her condition - a frequent plot-furthering device - and the way the characters kept putting off important conversations with silly excuses about being tired or whatnot. Also, Margot's insistence on dropping everything and rushing to be with her sister's family every time she thought they needed her, and then realizing she probably didn't need to, over and over again.

But it was a good story that became more engrossing as it went on. I liked how the characters were all so flawed but nobody was a villain. I liked how complicated it all was, going all the way back to Margot and Lacey's childhoods and how it affected them later, plus Margot's early marriage and its devastating consequences.

I also liked how art was so important to many of the characters. Lacey's weaving was something she hid behind but also a way of expressing herself, even more important as she began to lose language. Oliver's art career began taking off in a big way, and he started making some big life decisions because of it. Margot, who had stopped painting after living through a horrible marriage, began to take it up again. It brought home that a devastating diagnosis doesn't stop everything else - everyone affected has other things they think about and care about and focus on more than their own dramas.

This doesn't seem to be a well-know book (indeed, I hadn't heard of it until I received it as a gift) but those who enjoy domestic fiction will appreciate it.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Knitting

Shawls in progress never really look like much, but I'm going to show you mine anyhow.

It's going remarkably well, considering how much I dislike knitting lace.

The pattern begins by casting on 5 stitches and then each row increases the number of stitches until you end up with 467 stitches per row. This is all very poorly planned. When I start on a project I'm highly motivated and have lots of momentum, as I'm sure is true for most knitters, but as time wears on the project loses its novelty, the road beginning to feel long and arduous, until I'm limping toward the finish line wishing to just be put out of my misery. Having those last rows get longer and longer might do me in. Wouldn't it make more sense to cast on the 467 stitches to start with and then decrease so the rows get shorter as time moves on and our energy wanes? If I ever make a shawl again, I'll certainly look for one constructed that way.

Another thing I've learned about is nupps. I've heard of them before but had not made them. I noticed them in the pattern before I started and when I read the stitch guide at the beginning of the pattern, they looked simple enough. To make a nupp, which is like a little bobble, you just k, yo, k, yo, k all in one stitch. Well, that's easy enough! What the stitch guide doesn't mention up front, however, is that when you are on the next row and you come to that nupp, you need purl 5 stitches together. Let me say that again: purl 5 together. Let me tell you, I will never again complain about purling 3 together. Purling 5 stitches together requires not only great dexterity and the holding of one's breath, but apparently the consuming of an entire Manhattan. It also requires a tool, though I'm not sure exactly what - I've been using the pointy end of a metal stitch holder. You just need something smaller than the needles you're using in order to pull the yarn through those 5 stitches. A tiny crochet hook would probably work really well, if I had one, but I've managed to make do. Luckily, the nupps don't come often, but when they do there's a slew of them.

In summary, this project may be more difficult than I thought when I began. But it will look lovely if I can manage to bring it to completion.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (2012)

In her early 20s, Cheryl lost her mother to cancer. For several years afterward she was adrift, seemingly on a path of self-destruction. She had affairs, her marriage ended, she did some drugs. Finally, she decided that what she really needed was to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, alone. Slightly unprepared, she set out on an amazing and difficult journey and lived to tell us all about it.

Strayed had a very close relationship with her mother. They went to the same college together, and transferred to a different college together. Just before graduation when her mother was dying, it was Cheryl - and not her other children - who stayed by her bedside. After her mother's death, Cheryl was understandably lost.

As she began her downward spiral into meaningless sex and drugs, I began to wonder if this might be one of those
memoirs in which people brag about their poor choices. But it wasn't - every bit of it was relevant background upon which she reflects during the most important part of the book, her long and arduous hike.

Wearing hiking boots in the wrong size and carrying a hopelessly heavy backpack (nicknamed "Monster"), Cheryl got on the trail. Despite a few mistakes (like bringing the wrong kind of fuel for her stove) and a noticeable lack of training, she wasn't completely stupid. She had a good trail guide that she followed religiously and had packed what she needed (and then some), and carefully planned her route, mailing resupply packages to herself that she would pick up along the way. When things went wrong - like having to skip impassable parts of the trail - she didn't back down. She figured things out and moved on, sometimes with a little help from strangers or new friends she met along the trail.

When she thought she couldn't go on, she just pushed ahead anyhow. I mean, there's little choice when you're in the middle of the woods, but every time she went through a town was an opportunity to give up and she didn't. Even though she seemed perpetually starving and out of money, even though at one point she ended up lost and wearing booties made of duct tape, she didn't give up. If you have an experience like this at the age of 26, what in life could ever seem insurmountable again?

Throughout the book I was struck by the kindness of strangers, the camaraderie between hikers on the trail, and surreal moments of beauty, such as the night Cheryl awoke to find herself covered in tiny frogs. But most striking of all was her strength and tenacity, her sheer will to do this thing, to prove to herself that she was strong and that she could change her life for the better. Truly an inspiring memoir.