Monday, September 9, 2013

Book Review: I Promise Not To Suffer

Book reviews are my favorite kind of sponsored posts to do, and I was happy to learn that the subject matter of I Promise Not To Suffer was a middle aged couple who hike the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. I immediately thought of Cheryl Strayed's Wild which I also read this year; that now famous ( as famous as literature can be these days ) memoir recounted Cheryl's solo hike as a young woman through the same trail. I wasn't too surprised when I read the book and found a quote from  Strayed on the book cover.

Gail and Porter are in their fifties when Porter decides he wants to take leave from his work as a doctor and hike the trail. Gail ends up reluctantly deciding to go along although, as the first chapter is titled, she hates nature. As the planning nears the actual hike, Gail flies to tell her mother, frail and nearing 80, that she and Porter will be gone for six months on this hike, when Gail's mom announces news of her own: her breast cancer has returned. It is with this heavy news that the hike begins, immediately derailing into a series of unfortunate events: squirrels steal food directly out of Gail's mouth, Porter sets himself on fire and then sustains an unnamed foot injury that causes him pain with every step.

As the hike intensifies, Gail and Porter both fall into the pattern of exhaustion and contemplation that seems par for the course with long hikes. They both privately work through painful issues and Gail thinks back to the beginning of their 17 year marriage.  As the challenges of the trail push them, they both come together and move apart. At one point, Porter makes a wrong turn and they are lost for part of a day. 

“As Daniel Boone remarked,” Porter said when he tumbled in, “‘I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.’ ”

There are beautiful moments of observation in this memoir. At one point, Gail runs directly into the path of a mountain lion. They are alone together, and stand looking at one another. It is exactly the kind of moment that is stirring to read about but would be much harder to actually enact!

The appendixes at the end are interesting to read-  lists of the supplies they used: gear, then food, then emergency list. Gail's writing is truly lovely in some places and increases in flow at the book moves on. In the end, I was rooting for Gail and Porter to get everything they needed off the trail. 

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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