An advance reader copy was provided free of charge by Thomas Dunne
Books through NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
Wild By Nature: From Siberia To Australia, Three Years Alone In The Wilderness On Foot
by Sarah Marquis
Thomas Dunne Books, 2016
ARC e-Reader (978-1-250-08199-5)
Hardcover: 272 pages (978-1-250-08197-1)
Wild by Nature was hard for me to review as I saw it from two perspectives; librarian and backpacker. I am an outdoorswoman and long distance backpacker myself; certainly nowhere near the explorer level as Sarah. When I saw this prepublication announcement I did cartwheels to get my hands on an ARC copy and was rewarded by Thomas Dunne Books.
First let me applaud Sarah for her incredible treks around the globe. This woman is a walking machine and makes Thoreau’s time at Walden Pond look like a trip to Central Park. She demonstrates an inordinate amount of stamina, versatility, adaptability, and perseverance.
Surprisingly the story is not presented as a journal or diary. It felt rambling and disconnected much like the internal strife the author shares with the reader. She tosses in references to other treks that she has accomplished that feel distracting.
There are frequent references to self-discovery and her search for the meaning of life. Overall the book will appeal to readers interested in a woman determined to take control of her own life on her own terms. Her dedication reads, “The story that follows is my story. I dedicate it to all of the women throughout the world who still fight for their freedom and to those who have gained it, but don’t use it.”
Her 3-year trek from Siberia to Australia would have required tremendous advance work and logistics planning. How does a French-speaking Swiss single woman plan a multiyear expedition across six countries in the Middle East? Alone!
Sad to say the book doesn’t really tell you those intricate details. If you were reading and sneezed you might have missed the half page of dialogue on this topic.
Long distance foot travelers reading this story will be interested in her equipment choices, food stores and geographic guidance methods. I was alarmed to note her low level of concern in all these matters. She points out the problem reading Asia road maps, “I forge ahead blindly, without a topo[logical] map…I can’t really find where I am on my [road] maps…I like being in the dark, not knowing how many miles I am from the next village, the next water source.” Experienced trekkers do develop excellent guidance skills but they are still at the mercy of the unknown.
Provisioning for adequate nutrition is difficult on a trek. Sarah is a strict vegetarian and cites resupplies opportunities limited to rice, onions, garlic, oil and hard cookies. You can’t march long on white rice and hot tea. It would have been interesting to learn more about her meal planning.
The story jumps and jerks through time and distance. It was impossible to follow in your mind’s eye was she was facing and what she would be facing next. I never felt as though I was traveling with her; I never felt connected to her journey.
There were moments of very beautiful descriptions of terrain and examples of good, bad and indifferent interactions with the cultural natives. I have told you how I was personally affected by the story. Other readers will come to the book with a different perspective and find the story completely different.
I am just disappointed in this so-so coverage of an awe inspiring journey by an extraordinary woman. I yearned to learn more about everything in deeper detail. It doesn’t feel worthy of her blood, sweat and tears.