If you enjoyed Wild by Cheryl Strayed or Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, I've got another memoir to recommend: I Promise Not To Suffer: A Fool For Love Hikes The Pacific Crest Trail (Mountaineers Books, 2013) by Gail D. Storey. For many years the author was a customer at the West University Branch of Harris County Public Library where I worked. Gail, once a librarian herself, wrote two hilarious novels set in Houston featuring a fictional librarian: The Lord's Motel and God's Country Club, originally published in the 1990s, were both reissued in paperback by Persea in 2011.We always carried multiple copies of her novels at my library. I remember when Gail was the featured cover girl on an issue of Library Journal. Gail was known for showing up at her readings and other events wearing a wedding dress or other fun costumes. I often spotted Gail and her tall, handsome husband Porter Storey, MD riding around town on their tandem bicycle before they moved to Colorado. I was glad to learn she had a memoir coming out, and then that the book won the Barbara Savage Miles From Nowhere Memorial Award (for compelling accounts of personal journeys and outdoor adventures).
Gail and her husband, who is at an impasse in his life as a hospice doc, decide to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Although Gail has survived two cross-country bicycle rides with Porter, she does not consider herself a hiker or even a nature lover. Gail adores her husband. They have been married seventeen years. Porter's son has left the nest. Porter becomes obsessed with buying or creating the best lightweight gear for their hike. Gail has many pangs about committing to the hike. Her mother's life is winding down and she knows they have unfinished business. But she can not imagine being separated from her husband/soulmate.
"Who am I?" is a question both she and Porter feel compelled to examine. As explained by Gail, "The older we grew, the deeper the question plunged." And so they take off. With the sure feet of a gifted writer, Gail moves expertly between her back story (including spiritual and philosophical segues) and life on the trail. As for her actual feet as well as the rest of her body, forget about it -- the hike is pure torture. Extreme temperatures, snakes, tumbles onto hard ground, drought are just some of the trials they will face. The hike is 2,543 miles long and they plan on covering 20 miles a day. A friend in Houston mails their food and medical supplies to their designated stops, often primitive campgrounds or makeshift trailers bustling with much younger hikers. Will they make it? I'm not going to tell you... Will they survive the hike? That I will tell you -- YES and YES, with much wisdom and kismet. You have to read it. This is such an intimate portrait of marriage, perhaps even more so than the story of a hike. Gail shares heart, soul, spirit and body. Thus, my heart, soul, spirit and body ached and danced alongside the rocky way.
I also have to add, that like Gail, I just recently lost my mother. Insights into death and dying from both Gail and Porter's lives made this an especially timely read. Namaste, Gail -- thank you for forging this trail of words and wonder.