Herr, Patricia Ellis. Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure. Crown, 2012. ISBN 978-0307952073 256 pp. $
When Herr’s 5-year-old daughter Alex fell in love with hiking, mother and daughter set a goal to hike all of New Hampshire’s 4,000 ft peaks. Herr thought it would take years, but it took considerably less, due to Alex’s boundless energy, enthusiasm and upbeat attitude.
Along the way, there are many conflicts, ranging from unpredictable weather to attitudes of hikers who don’t think kids belong on mountains to angry grouse on the trail. Mother and daughter persevere, and it’s an opportunity for a homeschooling mom to impart life lessons that instill a sense of pride in Alex.
This recounting of the adventure of conquering many mountains is highly engaging and inspiring. Herr is a wonderful storyteller, and chapters are well constructed, building upon one another. I couldn’t put it down, and figure if a 5-year old can climb mountains, I can walk an hour a day.
Shelasky, Alyssa. Apron Anxiety: My Messy Affairs In and Out of the Kitchen. Crown, 2012. ISBN 978-0307952141 272 pp. $14
I am unfamiliar with Shelasky’s prior work; she’s another blogger with a publishing contract. She comes across off the bat as a shallow city dweller who comes to love and appreciate food (after going on ad naseum with examples about how it wasn’t important to her). She doesn’t seem to have many original recipes to share, which is actually okay–a foodie by definition is a fan of food, not necessarily a cook. Chapter two is nothing but celebrity name-dropping and fast-paced lifestyle.
After that, though, things get interesting: she uses her journalistic credentials to meet a Top Chef contender, and they fall head over heels. It’s hard enough to date someone in the food service industry (long hours and never available on the weekend) let alone someone who is working towards opening/owning his own restaurant (never available!) and the relationship and ensuing engagement is rocky. Shelasky is candid about her bad behavior–about a year in, she decides to learn how to cook, instead of making sandwiches for her SO. It doesn’t save the relationship, but she finds herself.
The writing isn’t bad, but the book lacks narrative structure early on. Shelasky finds her voice and hits her stride, and the story is a compelling one.