An avid outdoorswoman recalls her many adventures in this tender memoir.
Debut author Brown was born in California’s San Francisco Bay Area in 1943, and her recollections of the growth and change of the American West form the core of a family history that stretches from the mid-20th century to the present day. Brown grew up in an exciting time in California, and her teenage years coincided with the growth of folk music by the likes of Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. Her parents instilled a love of the outdoors in her from a young age, and she spent many hours hiking under canopies of coastal redwoods and exploring California’s beaches. She was attending Marin Community College, studying art and photography, when the Cuban missile crisis and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy occurred. After getting married to her first husband on New Year’s Eve 1964, they began crisscrossing the country in a Volkswagen van, exploring America’s protected wilderness areas when the camping and hiking industries were just beginning to form—long before they became as successful as they are today. Her adventures would eventually span Europe and North America, and she crossed paths with theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and rebellious author Edward Abbey, who wrote the 1975 novel The Monkey Wrench Gang. In its best moments, Brown’s memoir paints a loving portrait of a life spent exploring the American West, from joyous ordinary events, such as cooking simple meals in Death Valley, to adrenaline highs while rafting down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Along the way, Brown describes many remarkable experiences, including getting shot at in a California desert where members of the Manson family roamed and scaling some of the West’s grandest mountains. Toward the end of the memoir, Brown’s writing sometimes devolves into lists of events rather than telling the solid stories that make other sections shine. These latter parts sometimes seem more like a letter to a distant relative than a fully realized memoir, but they still clearly come from a place of deep love.
A sweet, detailed recounting of a life well-lived in America’s wild places.