Sunday, August 22, 2021

Review of Things I Learned from Falling by Claire Nelson

Things I Learned from Falling by Claire Nelson
(Published 2020 by Aster; 272 pages)
Reviewed for Cholla Needles by Greg Gilbert

 

           Who doesn’t appreciate a well told tale, especially when it occurs in your own back yard and mentions people you know. And, thus, we have Claire Nelson’s story of survival and discovery after a harrowing fall in Joshua Tree National Park in 2018. A native of New-Zealand who has worked in London for the past decade writing about travel and food, Nelson’s first book, Things I learned from Falling, displays her experience as a writer who is accustomed to engaging an audience of readers.

            The book begins with her fall, a remarkably common-place misstep that anyone who hikes will relate to, something that could have happened to me dozens of time. To that extent, her story is a cautionary tale that plumbs the depths of one’s will to survive and what the well lived life might entail. After the fall, the reader’s proximity to Nelson’s pain and struggles is intimate and vivid. The author has strayed from the established path, has fallen 25 feet and landed among boulders, her pelvis shattered. She can only move her arms, there is no phone signal, she is hidden from view, and while she bakes during the day, she freezes at night. Her heroic struggle of survival is physical and psychological, a tale of twin shattering’s.

            While her physical demise is a dominant and dark presence, the book’s title says that she’s endured and “learned” as a result. The threats of exposure, shock, thirst, foraging predators, and her having to resort to measuring out and drinking her urine describes a brilliant determination to live, and a universal desire for a fulfilling life. That she survives is not the crux of the story, but, rather, how she does so and her determination to be worthy of the opportunity.

            A last happy note involves references to our hi-desert friends and neighbors, among them our own Space Cowboy Books proprietor, Jean-Paul L. Garnier. Again, this is a well told story that I am happy to recommend.


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Greg Gilbert is the author of Afflatus.

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