Why the Flu Made Me a Better Mom

The flu arrived on Christmas Eve; it hit me hard, knocked me down and still refuses to leave. I don’t remember the last time I was so sick: fever and chills, aches and coughs… all of that dreaded “crud.” Needless to say, the last week has been horrible.

It’s also been sweet — a  blessing in disguise.

On one of my worst days, as I was laying on the couch cycling through all the PBS morning cartoons with my three and a half year old daughter Maggie, I texted my mom that I felt guilty for all the TV and iPad time. She replied right away with “No guilt! Feel better!” But I wasn’t convinced to let go of the guilt until I was putting Maggie to bed that evening. As I curled up next to her and started drifting off to sleep myself, I realized what a calm, relaxing and fun couple of days we’d had. Sure, we missed out on a few get-togethers and gorgeous ski days, but because I was sick, I was forced to do nothing. To rest. To just be. And to just be together.

So while the flu made me miserable, it also made me a better mom, and brought joy to my daughter. Here’s why.

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One: I didn’t yell or raise my voice. I simply couldn’t; my voice was gone. Surprisingly, I only had her to ask her to do something once — get your PJs on, come eat dinner, brush your teeth — and she listened. The whisper worked and didn’t allow impatience or frustration to creep in. And while it was often a struggle to “use my words” and actually speak, bedtime books read in a whisper turned out to have quite a calming effect, on all of us.

Two: I slowed down. Mentally and physically. A simple task like taking the garbage out to the dumpster tapped all the energy reserves of my aching, chilled, weak body. But as we sauntered up the driveway, all bundled up in ski pants and winter gear, not once did Maggie whine that I was going too fast. I was taking my time, and moving at her pace, something I frequently fail to do when I’m rushing from one thing to the next. (I always try to remind myself of this Hands Free Momma blog post, “The Day I Stopped Saying Hurry Up!” which is such a great read if you missed it!)

Three: I slowed down some more. And actually stopped. I don’t think screen time equals quality time, but when a parent (or in our case, both parents!) is down and out, movies, cartoons and apps are a fantastic option to get through the day! But what I realized this week was that it is rare for me to actually sit still and watch an entire movie. This week was one of the first times I actually sat still long enough to watch an entire movie with Maggie… or in several cases, a couple back to back, like our Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 marathon (she loves those “immions” — not a typo, that’s what she calls them.) When I’m healthy and full of energy, I find myself constantly puttering or cleaning or doing… instead of just playing. Make dinner, do the dishes, tidy the toys, put the laundry in the dryer, finish an email… all part of the endless list of chores and responsibilities that inevitably distract me from spending true quality time with Maggie. The flu forced me to stop. I simply ran out of batteries and there’s no question that we all benefited from the lack of inertia.

Four: I played on her level. The Dayquil/Theraflu/Mucinex-induced fog left only a small amount of brain space to get through the day. I had no choice but to live in the moment, and that was so incredibly freeing. When we made it out to the swings one afternoon, I watched her flop off backwards and lie on her back quietly looking up. So I let my exhausted body do the same; gazing up at a blue-gray sky that was threatening snow was comforting, peaceful and felt like a thing of the past… childlike daydreaming that I don’t let my adult self experience nearly enough. I wish I could say that I always do that, but the sad reality is I don’t. I let my to-do lists distract me from these amazing moments with my little nugget — my happy, curious, adventurous, hysterical kid who, by the way, is growing up way too quickly.

IMG_1923Five: I let her eat cookies. And pie. And whipped cream. And hot cocoa. And “coconuts” (her name for our favorite holiday treat: milk chocolate covered almonds.) It’s not that she’s deprived of sweets. It’s that my head is usually rationalizing healthy food choices over sugary treats. But when I was sick, I simply didn’t have the ooomph to hold tightly to my own “should’s.” Not only was I fine with her indulging, but I loved the resulting sugar-induced “hop on mom” tickle fests, even though I was about as lively as a rag doll.

Six: I let her stay up late. Even though she wasn’t napping (that’s nothing new) and was waking up early and was probably fighting off whatever sickies had nabbed us, it required so much less effort — and was so much more satisfying and fun! — to watch her and my husband play contentedly with the new Christmas Legos than to try to rally the troops to bed. No question, vacation is made for exceptions and extra family time and extra fun, but I wonder if that would’ve been as obvious to me if I hadn’t been forced to slow down and observe, shedding the need to control.

Seven: I was content being a homebody. I’m not one to sit at home. Especially when I’m off work and hanging with Maggie, I like to do stuff. We’re always running around, doing chores, going to the pool or skiing or meeting friends… And when we’re out and about, she’s such a trooper, always chiming in from the back of the car “I don’t want to go home — can we go somewhere else?” But this week, I had no choice but to stay at home. I relished it. And so did she. We were never in a rush to go anywhere or do anything, so had all the time in the world to play Legos, work on our new family puzzle, hang around in our PJs and build forts (even if I immediately ended up flat on the floor, resting and beat once it was built!)

For a few days in a row, the first thing Maggie would say to me when she woke up in the morning was: “Are you feeling better mommy?”

The answer is yes. I feel amazing — not yet physically, but my heart is full. I feel so blessed and so appreciative of my  family and this amazing little girl who teaches me so much every day. And if I can’t have my mom nearby to take care of me when I’m sick, a sweet three-year old is certainly a fine replacement.

Slowly on the mend, I’ve caught myself falling back into old patterns, but by simply being conscious of the shift, I know I’ll have the strength to keep the good stuff going. As we head into the new year, I hope none of you get the flu. But I do hope you have the chance to slow down, and just be… whether it’s with your kids, your partner, your human and furry friends, or even just with yourself. Here’s to a happy and healthy new year!

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2013 Favorite Kids Books

In honor of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day — Saturday, December 7 — let’s talk kids books! These days, with a 3 1/2 year old who loves reading as much as I do, I’m enamored by children’s books as much as I am my own fictional escapes.

I’d typically work up to my favorite, but in case you don’t read this whole blog, I want to make sure you do not miss this spectacular wordless picture book by Aaron Becker — Journey. If you buy one children’s book this holiday season, make it this one!

journey

This illustration recently graced the cover of the New York Times Book Review. The author sells signed giclee prints from his web site, which are worth checking out!

What first hooked me on this book was the book trailer (watch it here.) Named one of the Notable Children’s Books for 2013 by The New York Times, and recently dubbed “a wordless masterpiece” that is “both timely and timeless” (The Huffington Post) Journey is the story of a lonely girl who uses her red marker to outline a magical door opening to adventure. She draws a boat, a hot air balloon and a magic carpet as she navigates this other world. When she visits a steam punk-esque castle, she narrowly escapes the bad guys and frees a purple caged bird who later helps her out of captivity by returning her lost marker. (Spoiler alert: the purple bird is drawn by a boy with his own marker, who she befriends both in their pretend, drawing world, as well as in “real” life.)

It’s Harold & The Purple Crayon meets Imagine a Night. It’s “The Imagination Book” (as my daughter calls it.) It’s “story breathing” (the name of the author’s website and Twitter handle) at its finest. While probably most appropriate for the 2-6 year old set, this would be a joy at any age; I was even thinking it would make a unique gift for a graduate (think Oh The Places You’ll Go) … or even a wedding gift for a couple, as the boy and girl find, save and enjoy each other through a shared world  they’ve created.

Clearly I’m obsessed with Journey, but yes, there are other books in the sea, and several other picks worth sharing:

When it Snows, Richard Collingridge — reminiscent of The Polar Express, the classic illustrations are like an “ethereal Norman Rockwell” (as my husband said) that match a moody, cozy story perfect for snowy winter days. After wondrous adventures with bigger-than-life snowmen and rides on polar bears, the story finishes with:24732-img4

“I see thousands of elves…and other magical creatures…and I can go there every day…because my favorite book takes me there.”

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, Peter Brown — I love the book description: “Are you bored with being so proper? Do you want to have more fun? Mr. Tiger knows exactly how you feel. So he decides to go wild.”

Me… Jane, Patrick McDonnell — a story of the young Jane Goodall and her toy chimpanzee. (I bought this a few months ago and wrapped it up for Christmas. Not sure who will be more excited to open it – me or the little nugget!)

From "Me... Jane"

From “Me… Jane”

The Day the Crayons Quit, Drew Daywalt, Oliver Jeffers — a box of crayons goes on strike. This fun book teaches us that crayons have feelings too — perfect for toddlers who are learning their own emotions and how to express feelings.

This Moose Belongs to Me, Oliver Jeffers — OK, this was from 2012, but I love how quirky it is, so I couldn’t resist including it here. That moose you think is your pet…? That you call Marcel…? Well, that lady over there who feeds it apples (don’t do this at home, kids!) calls him Rodrigo… and she thinks he’s her pet ( : Great illustrations, funny, and it teaches us to respect what is wild.

If You Want to See a Whale, Julie Fogliano – I’m ending with a book that is equally beautiful and timeless as Journey. Fogliano (author of And Then It’s Spring — another favorite!) has done it again with poetic words that match simple yet inspiring illustrations. We bought this one at an indie bookstore in Gloucester, Mass. after whale watching this summer (where yes, we actually saw whales!) We’d read this almost every night before bed, then after turning the lights, we’d take turns coming up with our own endings to the ‘If you want to watch a whale…’ sentence. This is one of those books that is a supreme catalyst for imagination, and one I’d highly recommend, especially for all you east coasters.

From "If You Want to See a Whale"

From “If You Want to See a Whale”

Stay tuned later this month for my must-have reccomendations when building a library for your kiddo.

And, if you’ve made it this far, then you’re definitely a book lover — for yourself and your kids — so please excuse a brief public service announcement: as you consider your purchasing options, please think about supporting your local independent bookstores (and toy stores…and libraries… ) While you may be able to get it cheaper online, those extra few dollars can go a long way in preserving the cozy, inspiring, community hubs that our indie shops offer. I simply cannot imagine a world without indie bookstores… can you?

A big thanks to the below stores for nurturing my daughter’s love of reading!

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2013 Favorite Reads

It’s been a couple of years since I posted an end of year book list. But lately, I’ve found so much contentment in good reads, it’s time to share a few recommendations again.

This list isn’t in any particular order, nor are the books necessarily published in ’13. With more limited time these days, it’s harder to stay on top of all the new ones; I’m constantly catching up! I also realize in writing this that I’ve read so little nonfiction this year… so all my picks are fiction. Here are my favorites:9780770437855_custom-0fec8d6bec6f0261063ff3be14ce66895270b9a5-s6-c30

The Dinner, Herman Koch — edgy, sharp, often disturbing… this is a unique novel that I didn’t really appreciate until after I was finished. Publishers dubbed it as a European Gone Girl, but I actually think it’s more appropriate to liken it to Defending Jacob, as one Goodreads reviewer (“Noeleen”) pointed out. (Just saw that this is being made into a movie to be directed by Cate Blanchett.)

Three Stages of Amazement, Carol Edgarian – I rarely disagree with recommendations from RJ Julia owner Roxanne and once again, she doesn’t disappoint. In her review, she points to a comment on the back of the book: “many love stories end in marriage, rare is the story that begins with one.” I picked this up3StagesPBCover a few years back and finally got around to reading it this year — it’s modern, relevant and feels so real. I loved everything about it, including this quote: “To a man, talk is work; to a woman, it’s reward.” (If you like this, also try Let the Great World Spin and Rules of Civility… two of my other all-time favorites..)

Wool, Hugh Howey – dystopic fiction doesn’t usually make my list, but I’ll make an exception here because Hugh’s back story is equally intriguing as the book. In March, he explained his path to a huge publishing deal in an article for IndieReader, which endeared me to him as an author. While I won’t necessarily read everything he writes, I’m a huge fan of his humility and authenticity as an author.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman — once again, not my usual fare, but after a few recommendati9780062255655_custom-edf574a766e8d0912ecde8211555ca96c266ae1d-s6-c30ons from simpatico readers, I had to give it a shot. I went into this with only a minimal impression of Gaiman (author of Coraline) but now I want more. He’s a creative genius who tests the boundaries of imagination, and I want to explore his other books, both those for adults and kids.

The Light between Oceans, M. L. Stedman — for me, “light” reading doesn’t mean mindless, light subject matter; it means unobtrusive, decent writing that pushes along a compelling story. The Light between Oceans falls into that category: the writing didn’t blow me away, but the story kept my attention and I enjoyed reading it.

Where’d You Go Bernadette, Maria Semple — smart, sassy and whacky… this book was a winner. I think it was over-hyped for a lot of people, but for me, it was a breath of fresh air to find a book that was both well written and funny.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon, Anthony Marra — I wish I had jotted down the character names from the start, 9780770436407_custom-77ecfa8847f465932cc1ea4b3ea0f626c0c7a23d-s6-c30because I’d occasionally lose track of who was who ( I blame myself and late night reading…  not the author.) This was a dense read (Chechnya mid-90s to 2004) but it was really well done and the writing was sharp. With all the layers to the plot, I think this would make a good book club read… the kind of story you need to talk about afterwards.

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green — when recently asked by a friend what I thought about The Fault in Our Stars, I said I “appreciated” it (vs. “loved” it, the reaction of so many other readers.) Maybe it was the topic (teenagers with cancer) that was just too hard for me… but I do love the author (his wit and humanity shine through his writing) so I would recommend the book with unwavering enthusiasm.

As always, would love to hear what you’re reading and loving! And… stay tuned for my favorite children’s books, which I’ll post next week — after I present at The Next Page’s ‘Best of the Best 2013

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Beauty Break

Grand Canyon (Joe Kusumoto Photography)

Grand Canyon (Joe Kusumoto Photography)

This past winter, my husband was lucky enough to do a river trip down the Grand Canyon. While so much goodness came out of his trip, one of my favorite things that he’s since shared with us is the “Beauty Break.” While setting up camp or cooking dinner or sitting around drinking beers, someone would call out “beauty break!” at which point everyone would pause and take a moment to appreciate the sunset, or the view from a hike, or the light fading on the canyon walls.

Beauty breaks have become a part of our lives, our family vocabulary, our special moments. Our three year old echoes the call and if we’re at home, heads to the closest window, or if we’re in the car, asks “where?” (it’s a restricted view from the back in a car seat!)

Driving home tonight, I found myself in the midst of a beauty break. The dark storm clouds took a break from battling it out with the Colorado summer blue skies, and the light over Lake Dillon was just perfection. In some ways, it was a typical “wow I cant’ believe I live here” beauty break.

But it was also so much more; it was a feeling of deep appreciation — for the moment, for my family, for independence, for work that I love, for people that inspire me. It was also a nudge to write again… to blog, to share, to be a writer, even if in a small way.

Grand Canyon at Night (Joe Kusumoto Photography)

Grand Canyon at Night (Joe Kusumoto Photography)

So here I am. I’m back. And I’ ready to talk books (of course!), PR, writing, parenting… whatever lights the fire in my belly.

Before I sign off, I need to give credit where credit is due. In the roundabout way that the universe often operates, several people  unknowingly conspired today to get me writing again.

Thank you to Marypat (FreeSpirit Yoga) for reminding me that freedom comes with being rooted.

Thank you to Peg (Positively Peg) for inviting me to be a part of a really cool project she’s working on. (More to come on that…)

Thank you to my husband who told me (again!) that I should write a book; and my daughter, in response to my adamant “no – not yet,” insisted: “You SHOULD, mommy!” Well, there you have it. No book, but a baby step to blog again.

Happy Fourth of July week to all!

I hope you can freedom, inspiration and many a Beauty Break!

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Q&A with Signe Pike

I have never been a faery kind of gal and I wouldn’t have picked up this book if it weren’t for the “blurb” from Rita Gelman, author of one of my favorite books, Tales of a Female Nomad. Thank goodness – or thank the faeries! – that I did! Faery Tale is a magical romp that will make you look at the world, both that which we can see and that which we can’t always prove, with brand new eyes. I can’t wait for my daughter Maggie to read this beautiful travelogue one day….

Searching for faeries isn’t your run-of-the-mill adventure – how did you get started on this whimsical journey?

I was working full-time in New York City as a book editor when my father passed away; at the same time, there was a woman [Raven Keyes] living in my building who was a very spiritual lady. She loved coming to my apartment because she said it was filled with faeries. At first I thought she was one basket short of a picnic. Then I started thinking that isn’t it so amazing that there’s this woman in her mid 50s who still believes that faeries exist, while the rest of us have relegated the belief to the nursery.

At the time, I was an editor and started looking around to find a writer who may be interested in writing a memoir to prove the existence of faeries from a skeptical perspective. Then one of the literary agents I was talking to said she thought I should write the book.

One of the things I write about in Faery Tale is my father, who was a brilliant storyteller and also a professor at Cornell University. He used to teach creative writing but he himself could never write. It killed him that he could never produce, that it was never good enough to show to anyone. He’d always tried to encourage my writing. Like my dad, I thought I could be a supporter of other people who were writers, but it wasn’t something I was capable of doing. Until he passed away… and then I had all these emotions bubbling up about life, death and the sense of enchantment that we lose by grief and devastation and disaster. I wanted to reclaim the childlike possibility and magic and wonder. That’s ultimately what sent me out into the field looking for faeries.

While you’re searching for faeries, it also seems to be a symbolic quest for meaning in your life. How did the whole experience of researching the book and experiencing a search for faeries change you?

Because I was living so much in my head and such a skeptical and logical thinker, when my father passed away I didn’t have much to cling to in terms of my belief of life after death. When I left on my journey, researching faeries was an entry way to give the world beyond an opportunity. If I could find evidence of something as preposterous as faeries, then there was the possibility of everything else. As I was walking the hills and swimming in the Irish Sea and sitting in these ancient ruins, I was also searching to come to terms with the sudden and unexplained death of my father. I was looking for closure. Like so many of us, I was on this journey, seeking as a broken person to heal and become whole. I hoped that I could discover something of meaning. What I really didn’t know was that it was absolutely going to change my life utterly and completely.

I went from working 12- to 15-hour days in a cubicle in Manhattan to being able to sit at my desk in Charleston, South Carolina and apply a nice mud mask while I work on my next writing assignment.

I found closure, but healing is something that is a lifelong effort. Losing the important people to us, our parents, always makes you feel like you’re half an orphan. You still miss that person every day. In having encounters that I couldn’t necessarily explain and going through all the events I went through in Faery Tale, it did give me the seeds of trust that I needed to think that maybe there is something else out there. Maybe [my dad’s] not gone forever; he’s just in a different place.

One of the memoir’s themes is your hope that we treat the planet and all living beings with more respect. Can searching for faeries help us be more attuned to the natural world?

Yes. Absolutely. The ancients believed that the earth was imbued with a sense of enchantment – that it wasn’t just a tick tock of the sun that caused our seasons to change, but that there was a deeper magic to our existence. And that’s what a search for faeries is all about – looking at the world around us on a daily basis. No matter where we live, we are here now and we have a responsibility to take care of this creation every day. A lot of us get lost in our 9-5 and get disillusioned by the perceived darknesses around the world. One of the messages of the book is that we have got to start focusing on treating the planet well. When we compost, turn off the lights, start recycling, stop using so much water… when we start treating each other kindly, it makes a huge difference, and there’s a ripple effect. A lot of people get caught up in the idea that I’m some zany woman looking for faeries… How droll! Searching for faeries in the English countryside! But really, I want to inspire women to wake up to magic in their daily lives and stay connected to how we can live better on this planet. I’m trying to get people to open up to the fact that just because you believe in the rediscovery of enchantment, just because you want to chase a childhood belief, you’re not doing something foolish.

Do you have any other faery journalism trips planned?

Raven and I are hosting a retreat to Glastonbury, England in June. There are still some openings but we want it to be an intimate retreat. The process of deciding to do it was a personal one for us because of everything we experienced. We have special friendships with all of the people that the women will be meeting. We’re opening a very intimate world to them so wanted to keep it small.

There’s such a community springing up around the book… which is really lovely!

Read more in Women’s Adventure Magazine.

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Q&A with Tracy Ross

Tracy Ross’ memoir, The Source of All Things, has already received rave reviews in Elle and O Magazine, and Tracy was recently featured in People Magazine (March 28th issue.) Everyone I share the book with is blown away by its raw honesty and exquisite writing… and falls in love with Tracy’s contagious energy. It has everything a memoir should: honest storytelling, compelling writing, guts and personality.

Here’s a recent Q&A I did with the author, as it appeared in Women’s Adventure Magazine:

Your connection with what you were feeling at different points of your childhood is so authentic – you’re so tuned into that. How were you able to capture that? What kind of research was required?

I looked at myself as a character instead of as “me.” I tried to keep some distance and just wrote the story.

I read an interview with Wells Tower [author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned], where he talks about auto hypnosis. When he writes, he goes into this auto hypnotic state. I would find myself being able to do that. If I would slow everything down enough in my brain, wipe out all of the clutter and all of the voices that said ‘you won’t be able to do this,’ then I could really begin to hear. I could call up and go up to those moments if I listened really closely… I knew how I felt and I knew how I reacted. It took a lot of listening really closely to hear it and feel it.

I also have journals, a ton of letters that people have saved, letters that I sent my parents when I was in Oregon. Throughout the book, I picked scenes that I felt really strongly about. Those are the things in our life that stand out: the moments that create the connect-the-dots of the important arc of our life… the moments that stand out emotionally.

I talked to a lot of people, did a lot of reporting, asked my dad and mom a billion questions to have them reconstruct what happened. I went back to my parent’s house and Twin Falls, tried to get court documents. It was really emotional and crazy. A lot of this story is me thinking “did this really happen?” That’s one of the problems that abuse victims suffer from – you spend so much time building these safety barriers around your brain and your own memory. You say “I don’t want that to influence me,” “I don’t want to remember that”… it’s the whole process of blocking it out.

What was the most challenging part of writing the memoir?

The writing. Believing that I’m not some hack and could actually tackle this from a nuts and bolts writing perspective. Also, throughout the whole process, having to pull the curtain back more and more and more. I had become very comfortable with saying “I was abused 12 times” and thinking ‘well, that’s not so bad, it wasn’t rape, so it’s OK, others had it worse.’ But I still felt so shitty.

Also, going back and asking my dad these questions was hard… he couldn’t answer a lot of them, like “What did you do when you would come into my room?” Nobody wants to know that. Even though I didn’t want to know it, I realized it was causing upheaval for my kids. I was all over the place last year and my kids had just entered the age of awareness that something’s wrong with mom, she’s not happy. And I couldn’t tell them why. That was hard. Finally, I could acknowledge and accept the fact that I had been so screwed over.

Read more about what Tracy says she hopes her readers get out of the story and how the outdoors helped her heal.

I also highly recommend her recent article in Outside, a story titled “You Don’t Bring Me Clif Bars Anymore” about the “relationship challenge” she and her husband endured.

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Spring Book Reviews

My latest batch of book reviews – in the Spring issue of Women’s Adventure Magazineincludes two of my all-time favorite memoirs: The Source of All Things and Faery Tale. I was also lucky enough to meet both authors in person when we hosted book signings with these amazing women at The Next Page bookstore in Frisco, Colo. Definitely check these out!


The Source of All Things: A Memoir By Tracy Ross

She was a toddler who lost her father, then an eight-year-old sexually abused by her stepfather, then a teenager pulled between a family’s love and their corrosive secret. Even as a precocious little girl growing up in Twin Falls, Idaho, author Tracy Ross had guts. She still does, and the former staff editor at Skiing and Backpacker magazines proves it in a chronicle of her own hardcore life lessons delivered with a combination of biting honesty and understated drama.

Ross’ love of the outdoors serves as the narrative’s backbone: The wilderness exposed her as a child, helped her escape as a troubled teen, and now it frees her from the past. From Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, to Alaska’s Denali National Park, to Colorado’s high country-where today she’s settled with her own family-the rugged backdrops of Ross’ life have helped to ground her, while her time spent backpacking, hiking glaciers, and skiing untracked wilderness is what makes her tick.

The Source of All Things rivals Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle in portraying a dysfunctional family with compassion and wit. Ross’ writing is sensitive and sharp, full of raw emotion and painstakingly researched detail. She will win over readers with her story of survival, keen observations of the people and places surrounding her, and an ability to recognize and capture her conflicting emotions. “The desert killed people who didn’t know how to find shade or water,” she writes, describing her work for a youth program in Utah’s Escalante Desert, before hitting hard with a painful gem of truth: “But it didn’t hate them or prey upon them, the way dads sometimes preyed on their daughters.”

Like Into Thin Air, the first-person account of the 1996 tragedy on Mount Everest that helped cement Jon Krakauer’s writing career, Ross’ reflective first book will likely set her on the path toward becoming the new voice of adventure journalism. She delivers a memoir that’s both a vulnerable portrait of a childhood ripped apart and a liberating adventure story that you won’t want to put down. Long after closing the book, you’ll ponder her pain, her courage, and her strength. (Free Press, $26.00)

What’s it like to bare your soul in a tell-all memoir? Read our Q & A with Tracy Ross and find out.

Faery Tale: One Woman’s Search for Enchantment in a Modern World By Signe Pike

You don’t have to believe in faeries to be drawn into the spell of Signe Pike’s frolicking memoir of finding enchantment. Her adventures across England, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and Scotland offer a perfect antidote to what Pike calls “emotional deforestation”-the loss of magic and innocence-that, along with the death of her father, inspired her trip. She drops by-the-book research in favor of “faery journalism” and allows herself to find enchanted people and places, which she approaches with equal parts skepticism and childlike wonder. She relays her travel tales (navigating roundabouts and finding ancient faery bridges) with warmth, curiosity, and a sense of humor while also sharing her emotional journey as she copes with her father’s death. This book is a whimsical travel companion in itself, but Pike’s wit, wisdom, and wide-eyed view of the world will help you to develop your own sense of traveler’s whimsy. (Perigee Trade, $24)

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