The Next Chapter

Angie Abdou recommends three books about the great outdoors

The author and columnist reviews The Adventure Gap by James Edward Mills, Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese and End of the Rope by Jan Redford.
The Next Chapter columnist Angie Abdou is an author, an athlete and a keen outdoors person.  (Arsenal Pulp Press)

Adventure stories never go out of style. Survival stories and stories of fortitude and redemption in the wild are classic themes that get refreshed and reinterpreted all the time.

The Next Chapter columnist Angie Abdou is an author, an athlete and a keen outdoors person. 

Abdou spoke with Shelagh Rogers about three books that take readers into the wild.

The Adventure Gap by James Edward Mills 

James Edward Mills is an American author, freelance journalist and independent media producer. (joytripproject.com, Mountaineers Books)

"James Edward Mills is a Black American writer and adventurer. This book is about the first all-Black summit attempt on Denali, which is the highest mountain in North America. The project was sponsored by the National Outdoor Leadership School. There was this diverse group of students, entrepreneurs, outdoors people — and people who weren't so outdoorsy — a real mix of climbers.

This book is about the first all-Black summit attempt on Denali, which is the highest mountain in North America.

"They trained for two years and as the trip came close, James was told that he wasn't fit to go. He'd been having a lot of hip pain, and it turned out he had bone spurs in both his hips and needed a double hip replacement. He suddenly became the journalist of the trip, but not going on the trip. And then the group doesn't reach the summit. 

"Mills starts to realize that they're not the first. There is this tradition of Black people exploring the mountains as mountaineers. He talks about Buffalo Soldiers and he talks about Matthew Hansen, who was a Black explorer who was among the very first people to stand on the North Pole."

Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese

Richard Wagamese was one of Canada's foremost writers, and one of the leading Indigenous writers in North America. (Milkweed Editions/McClelland & Stewart)

"This novel is about Franklin Starlight, who is just getting to know his father, Eldon Starlight. But Eldon is dying. He has essentially drunk himself to death and he wants to be buried in the old warrior way. He wants Franklin to walk him out into the wilderness and bury him sitting up in a certain spot. 

"So it's a death walk, but also it's a healing walk. I find that all of Richard Wagamese's work is about, in some way, intergenerational trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. This walking conversation between these two men is very much about that.

Wagamese offers walking as a solution to emptiness or pain. He offers this connection of nature as a way to heal from that pain.

"It's very painful to read at times. It's so heartbreaking, the effect of alcoholism. Wagamese offers walking as a solution to emptiness or pain. He offers this connection of nature as a way to heal from that pain. It's never easy. But I find it so heartening that Wagamese was able to take so much pain and make something beautiful out of it."

End of the Rope by Jan Redford 

Jan Redford is a B.C.-based author and essayist. (Jannicke Kitchen, Vintage Canada)

"Redford writes about her experience mountain climbing, mostly about her time in Golden, B.C., and a little bit about her time in Fernie, B.C. She talks about how climbing empowered her. The first time she did it, she was very young. She talks about seeing this rock face and deciding she's going to climb it.

"It's very dangerous. She scuttles to the top and she could have been very badly hurt, but she wasn't. She gets to the top and she talks about it being a connection with her dad, like he's very proud that she did that. 

Redford writes about her experience mountain climbing, mostly about her time in Golden, B.C., and a little bit about her time in Fernie, B.C. She talks about how climbing empowered her.

"After that, she just wants to climb everything. She finds herself in this very masculine climbing culture. The love of her life at some stage goes off to do a deadly summit and never comes back. She's been there as a young woman watching her friends, boyfriends and husbands die on these peaks. Why are people taking these life threatening risks? And is it fair to the people they leave behind?

"The book talks about the women in these stories who are home taking care of kids and taking care of homes when their husbands are out doing recreation that has deadly consequences."

Angie Abdou's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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