Monday, 29 June 2015

Girl in the woods - Aspen Matis - not about the walk

What the publisher says

Girl in the Woods is Aspen Matis’s exhilarating true-life adventure of hiking from Mexico to Canada’a coming of age story, a survival story, and a triumphant story of overcoming emotional devastation. On her second night of college, Aspen was raped by a fellow student. Overprotected by her parents who discouraged her from speaking of the attack, Aspen was confused and ashamed. Dealing with a problem that has sadly become all too common on college campuses around the country, she stumbled through her first semester—a challenging time made even harder by the coldness of her college’s “conflict mediation” process. Her desperation growing, she made a bold decision: She would seek healing in the freedom of the wild, on the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail leading from Mexico to Canada.

In this inspiring memoir, Aspen chronicles her journey, a five-month trek that was ambitious, dangerous, and transformative. A nineteen-year-old girl alone and lost, she conquered desolate mountain passes and met rattlesnakes, bears, and fellow desert pilgrims. Exhausted after each thirty-mile day, at times on the verge of starvation, Aspen was forced to confront her numbness, coming to terms with the sexual assault and her parents’ disappointing reaction. On the trail and on her own, she found that survival is predicated on persistent self-reliance. She found her strength. After a thousand miles of solitude, she found a man who helped her learn to love and trust again—and heal.

Told with elegance and suspense, Girl in the Woods is a beautifully rendered story of eroding emotional and physical boundaries to reveal the truths that lie beyond the edges of the map.

What I thought

Firstly let me say this is compellingly readable, I couldn't help but keep turning the pages to discover what happens to Aspen on her journey whilst hiking the PCT trail in the USA.

I love walking and travel and hoped this might provide some insight on what its really like to undertake a really long trek, alone.

BUT and this is a huge but, I don't think I have ever in my life failed to engage with any person as much as the author of this book!! She is quite young, 19 when the book begins, she has led a strange sheltered upbringing which she is obviously desperate to break away from, but - Oh my, this is one self centred, self pitying, inconsiderate, messed up girl.

She is her own worst enemy and I had very little sympathy for her, even when the "awful catastrophic event" occurs. She allows being raped by a fellow student at college to dominate and define her life. I wanted her to say, ok it's happened, draw a line under it, don't allow this to ruin you. But she manages to allow herself to become a professional victim, she lets this one thing define her, every person she meets her first thought is about telling them "I have been raped" and she seems to use this one fact as an excuse to be a complete pain in the neck.

Then she sets off to walk this massive hike, to help herself get over it, and continues to put herself in compromising position, after difficult situation over and over and blames everyone else, her parents, her brother, the other long distance walkers and continues to pigeonhole herself as "the girl who was raped" not the girl who walks.

I had hoped it would be more about the walking and the practicalities of taking a long distance hike, but I got very little sense of place at all from the book. The characters who populate this long distance trail all appear to be misfits and wierdos, and I had to wonder if they are all as dislikeable and twisted as they seem on paper or if its this crazy girls warped view of the world which painted them this way.

I finished the book, was glad she managed to mature a little by the end and find some kind of closure, but I certainly won't be rushing to walk the Pacific crest trail in a hurry, I won't dash out to find anything else written by this woman and the book has failed to inspire me in any way whatsoever, apart from to thank heaven that although I consider myself to be pretty self centred I never have, and never will be, as totally messed up as this misguided young woman whom I could not admire or even empathise with but did pity.

I recieved an advance copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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