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  • T. V. Pinkard

Review: Alone in Wonderland

Every woman in the world has felt alone; she has felt the desire and the conflicting reluctance to be alone. A deeply ingrained fear, woven into our psyches from childhood, that to be alone is to be in danger. I, like so many, have long resented yet grudgingly accepted this unavoidable “truth.” This was one reason I was so intrigued to read Christine Reed’s memoir, Alone in Wonderland.

I confess that I am someone who always reaches for fiction first. After reading this, I may second guess that urge.

This is a book I will aggressively recommend to every person I know. No story I’ve read, in any genre, has been able to capture the specific breed of social doubt, or the isolating otherness that comes with feeling out of place in a room crowded with confident, vibrant people. The seemingly aimless and fruitless search to find identity; to find comfort in oneself, alone and with others. Picking up a book “about backpacking,” I hadn’t expected to see much of myself. I enjoy a good hike, even though I’m slow and wheezy on the trail, but I'm a far cry from proclaiming myself an outdoorswoman. And while Alone in Wonderland captures Christine’s tenacity and incredible strength to push forward (both in life and on these ambitious thru-hiking journeys) it is her own struggle to do so that she conveys so beautifully and endearingly. Had this story been told by one of the irritating “gliders” who breeze up and down difficult terrain with little more than a broken sweat, I likely wouldn’t have read it with the vigor I did. Because I am like Christine: I have to fight for every step up and forward, and it never feels natural. Indeed, much of life can sometimes feel that way, and the parallels she draws between her time navigating the wilderness and her time navigating the expectations of “real life” are intentional and inseparable.

Page after page I was constantly touched and surprised to resonate. Because this isn’t a book about backpacking really, just as it states on the back cover. It’s a woman’s story. A daughter’s story. A human story. A story that had me vibrating with empathy and a hunger to turn the next page. It has left me with the satisfied and wistful fog of wonderment that every good book achieves.

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