My latest batch of book reviews – in the Spring issue of Women’s Adventure Magazine – includes 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!
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.
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)