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Breaking Into the Backcountry

December 9, 2011

I love reading about self-discovery and pushing one’s boundaries, especially when it involves getting back to nature. That’s what Steve Edwards does in his book, Breaking Into the Backcountry, when he wins a writing contest that awards him seven months of “unparalleled solitude” in the wilderness.  As caretaker of a ninety-two-acre homestead along the Rogue River in Oregon, the recently divorced English teacher from Indiana chooses to leave the safety of friends, family and a comfortable life behind to test his mettle living alone with only bears and cougars to keep him company. The solitude becomes a meditation on life for Edwards, and he shares his journey with beautiful prose and windows into his most intimate thoughts. He’s always aware that he is out of his safety zone and could be in deep trouble unless he keeps his wits about him and learns to trust his instincts.

“In my heart of hearts, I know it’s ridiculous. I should be able to point to a tree and identify it as a redwood. I should be able to take a stroll in bear country without a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. But right now – just a day before meeting the owners of the homestead and getting set up to live in bear country for seven months – I just can’t. I’m afraid. There is an actual lump in my throat.”

As it happens, he is without newspapers or TV when the events of 9/11 unfold, and his realization that the world has shifted becomes tangible only when he looks up to the sky and sees no planes or contrails. This is a quiet but powerful narrative on one man’s search for himself and the meaning of life. I highly recommend it!

University of Nebraska Press, 2010

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