No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to
Kayak the Grand Canyon.
By Erik Weihenmayer and Buddy Levy.
Feb. 2017. 368p. illus. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne, $26.99
(9781250088789); e-book, $12.99 (9781250088802).
How do you top the challenge of climbing
Mt. Everest, let alone the Seven Summits?
Weihenmayer lost his sight at the age of 13
from retinoschisis and chronicled his journey as the first blind person to summit Mt.
Everest in Touch the Top of the World (2001).
He continues to motivate people of all ages
worldwide, from amputees to veterans, to
challenge their perceived limitations. Here he
describes how he took on the daunting challenge of kayaking the Colorado River through
the Grand Canyon, chronicling a grueling
journey navigating eddies and rapids while
paying homage to the complexity of families and bonds of friendship forged through
shared experiences. In addition to tracking
the kayak trip, the author also offers a poignant account of adopting his son from Nepal
and details fascinating medical advances concerning neuroplasticity, the brain’s capacity to
change. More than a story about a blind man
converting the improbable to the possible,
this volume provides a powerful testament to
the human spirit, concluding with a challenge
to readers to take the Pledge of No Barriers.
Guaranteed to inspire. —Brenda Barrera
The Actual One: How I Tried, and Failed,
to Avoid Adulthood Forever.
By Isy Suttie.
Jan. 2017. 288p. HarperPerennial, paper, $15.99
When Suttie’s friends announce that they are
having a baby, she has a perfectly normal reaction: she decides to skinny dip in the freezing
sea. Surely her friends will strip off their clothes
and follow, right? When they don’t, Suttie realizes that they’ve grown up, and she has been
left floundering in her hopes and dreams while
coping with countless mishaps. Not to be beaten down, the comedian/musician/doodle artist
resolves to find the love of her life, lest she be
left with her mother’s choice of online dating
matches. Suttie’s meandering narrative is witty,
whimsical, and weird, with interspersed anecdotes from her childhood and awkward teen
years. In this offbeat memoir, readers will encounter the delights of papier-mâché penguins
and dates with boys who speak only in rhyme.
Eliciting laughter and groans, Suttie describes
Civilianized: A Young Veteran’s Memoir.
her attempts at flirting and navigating life as
a thirtysomething still trying to be a twenty-
something. Suttie’s writing style is light and
creative, and both fans of this British come-
dian and readers looking for a smart, funny
read will speed through her literary debut.
By Michael Anthony.
Dec. 2016. 192p. Zest/Pulp, $16.99 (9781936976881).
On his website, masscasualties.com, Anthony speculates about why he turned to
artistic expression to deal with the memories
of war, “sometimes we need to go through
those hurricanes and rainstorms to see and appreciate the sun.” Anthony’s second memoir,
following the highly regarded Mass Casualties (2009), negotiates this turbulent climate
again in a lively, accessible narrative that may
remind some of Tim O’Brien’s The Things
They Carried (1990). Anthony, a six-year
army reservist, served a 16-month deployment as an operating room technician, during
which he “cauterized wounds, sutured skin,
and sawed through limbs.” Here he dissects
his first months back from war and a pact he
made with himself, that he would attempt
reintegration for three months, then kill himself. Anthony describes stepping through a
minefield of what he calls “unexpected intimacy.” He finds himself thrown together with
men seeking the secret to meeting women,
other veterans stumbling through their own
traumas, and women attempting to maintain
relationships with Anthony despite his explosive anger. Civilianized has the introspection
of a literary memoir and the narrative momentum of a novel. —Frank Tempone
By Mary V. Dearborn.
Mar. 2017. 752p. illus. Knopf, $35 (9780307594679).
A woman writing with a half-century of per-
Finishing School: The Happy Ending to
spective, Dearborn teases long-hidden secrets
out of the life of a hypermasculine novelist
who lived intensely in the moment. Dearborn
follows a virile young Hemingway as he tests
himself in war, toughens himself in manly
sports, conquers vulnerable female hearts, and
forges valuable friendships with influential
editors and other rising literary artists (includ-
ing Dos Passos, Pound, and Fitzgerald). With
a sinewy prose style deployed in masterpieces
such as The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to
Arms, this charismatic writer opens a compel-
ling modern perspective on a bleak and brutal
world where tough-minded heroes live—and
die—with steely courage. Yet even in this me-
teoric ascent, Dearborn discerns troubling
signs of callous egotism and
heedless mendacity. Failures
of character finally do catch
up to Papa Hemingway
as friendships fail, athletic
prowess wanes, emotional
outlook sours, and roman-
tic charms evaporate. The
master of the taut line de-
scends to the maudlin sentimentality of Across
the River and into the Trees. Even Hemingway’s
mystique of masculinity dissolves, leaving the
astonishing gender ambiguities of his posthu-
mously published The Garden of Eden. The
momentum of Dearborn’s final chapters gives
Hemingway’s shotgun suicide the feel of trag-
ic inevitability. A stunning humanization of
an enigmatic titan. —Bryce Christensen
That Writing Project You Can’t Seem to
By Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton.
Jan. 2017. 272p. TarcherPerigee, paper, $16
Countless writers have dream projects they
just can’t seem to get finished or even off the
ground, a problem that Tennis and Morton
tackle with a combination of sensitivity and
practicality. Their book is designed to help
scribes identify and address what’s blocking
them and create a sensible plan for moving
ahead on their blocked project. The authors,
an advice columnist and a ghostwriter who
both have struggled with stalled projects
of their own, begin by addressing the emotional pitfalls that keep writers from getting
the work done: doubt, shame, yearning, fear,
judgment, and arrogance. After breaking the
elements down to show how each can cripple
a writer as well as chronicling their own battles with them, they delve into how Finishing
School works. Started by Tennis, Finishing
School brings people together to set reasonable time commitments for their projects each
week and then pairs them so that each person
is accountable to another. Straightforward
and realistic, Finishing School offers a viable
option for anyone longing to complete a writing project. —Kristine Huntley
Hemingway at War: Ernest Hemingway’s
Adventures as a World War II
By Terry Mort.
Dec. 2016. 304p. Pegasus, $27.95 (9781681772479). 813.
Eliciting laughter and groans, Suttie describes her attempts at flirting
Mort (The Monet Murders, 2015) chron-
icles Hemingway’s war-correspondent
experiences in the writer’s own words, sec-
ondary sources, and eyewitness accounts.
Hemingway first experienced WWII aboard
his prized boat, Pilar, as part of the “Hoo-
ligans Navy,” volunteers searching the
Caribbean for German U-boats. Later, as a
reporter for Collier’s, he witnessed war-torn
London, the Normandy invasion, newly
liberated Paris, and brutal battles on the
In this offbeat memoir, readers will encounter the delights of papier-
mâché penguins and dates with boys who speak only in rhyme.
and navigating life as a thirtysomething still trying to be a twenty-
—Patricia Smith, on The Actual One