Aspen Matis's newly released memoir, Girl in the Woods, had me captivated from first page to last.
From the book's cover: "On my second night of college, I was raped. Shattered and alone, I fled to the Mexican border and headed north through 2,650 miles of desert and mountains to Canada, walking the height of America in search of home. This is the story of how my recklessness became my salvation."
More and more, we hear and read stories of walking as a form of therapy and healing. And I agree - walking clears the brain and allows time to think. The physicality of walking such a distance through so many climates is truly overwhelming and simply remarkable.
Matis led a sheltered childhood, allowing her mother to make many of her decisions, including dressing her (up until she was sixteen) Yet, on the other hand, she had attempted other solo extended hikes by lying to her parents about where she was. She purposely found a college a great distance from her childhood home to try and find her own footing. But she is unprepared in many ways, both mentally and emotionally for what life away from home will bring. And as the introduction says - the second day there....
I found the first few chapters of Girl in the Woods so compelling and couldn't put the book down. I couldn't wait to see where this walk wold take Aspen - both figuratively and literally. Real life is so unpredictable. Does Matis make choices that everyone would agree with? Absolutely not. Some of those choices put her life in danger - more than once. But, the courage to attempt such a journey has to be applauded. That journey is not just physical - Girl in the Woods is a 'coming of age' story for Matis as she struggles to shed her passivity and find her own footing in the adult world. A large part of that is dealing with the rape and her own sexuality.
The descriptions of the trail, the people and the scenery were detailed and vivid and had me imagining what it would be to do such a walk. But this couch potato will continue to live vicariously through others who share their stories. Inevitable comparisons will be made to Cheryl Strayed's Wild. The two women's walks were at different points in their lives and their journeys reflect that.
I am fascinated with memoirs - the baring of someone's personal life for public consumption - and criticism. I can't criticize someone's choices and life - I can only say thank you for sharing. Does Matis find her happy ending? Yes - "the trail has shown me how to change" - and no - but that's another story. Isn't that life though? Moving ahead one step at a time, never quite knowing what's around the next bend. Girl in the Woods was an excellent read for me. Read an excerpt of Girl in the Woods.
Aspen Matis now lives in Greenwich Village, where she's finishing her degree at The New School and working on a novel. You can connect with Aspen Matis on her website as well as on Twitter and find her on Facebookand on Instagram.
See what others on the TLC book tour thought. Full schedule can be found here.