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Review of Legs Get Led Astray by Chloe Caldwell

June 4, 2012

A good book gives you a window into the world and into yourself. If you’re lucky, perhaps you understand both a little better when you’re finished reading. In Legs Get Led Astray, I looked through the window and it made me laugh, cry, and squirm. Chloe Caldwell’s debut collection of no-holds-barred essays chronicles her journey through young adulthood like nobody’s business. The intimate, and sometimes painful, account of her life in New York City and beyond is unselfconsciously honest. Some people might consider it a little too honest for Caldwell’s own good. But, from my perspective of truth begetting beauty, Caldwell has produced a work of heart-wrenching art. Her book, which is full of musical asides, possesses a rhythm that is a bassline resonating deep within her heart where dark mixes with light, regret with hope, and raunchiness with purity of spirit. Here’s an excerpt from her essay My Heart Was Still Beating:

“I didn’t want to tell him I am scared of a rapist or a murderer jumping out of an alley way and killing me each night, so I walk with my keys with one in between each finger and I feel safer that way, knowing I could punch them in the eye, though I don’t ever want to have to. I didn’t tell him that I’d just read The Highly Sensitive Person in Love and found out that I have a fear of engulfment. I didn’t tell him that I am afraid of being poor forever. I didn’t tell him that every day when I ride my bike I am sure I am going to get hit.”

Caldwell has the amazing capacity to know where she’s been and why she was there even though she is still young – not yet thirty. She has apparently skipped years of analysis and dialed directly into the perspective of someone who has spent many, many decades reflecting on why they did what they did. And she’s done a lot. A lot of sex, drugs, music, and babysitting, to name a few of her endeavors. One of my favorite lines comes when she’s asked what she’d like written on her gravestone. She says:  “I don’t know. Maybe something like, ‘I wasn’t fucking stupid, dude. I was just curious.’”

If you need anymore convincing, Wild author Cheryl Strayed, who is a mentor of sorts, blurbed the book saying: Chloe Caldwell’s Legs Get Led Astray is a scorching hot glitter box of youthful despair and dark delight. Tender and sharp, wide-eyed and searching, these essays have a reckless beauty that feels to me like magic.” Case closed.

Future Tense Books, 2012

Chloe Caldwell’s non-fiction has appeared in The Rumpus, Nylon Magazine, The Nervous Breakdown, Chronogram, The Frisky, The Sun Magazine, SMITH Magazine, Jewcy, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, Vol 1. Brooklyn, Freerange Nonfiction and The Faster Times.
She is the founder and curator of the Hudson River Loft Reading Series and has taught Creative Writing workshops at Omega Teen Camp, The Hudson Opera House, and Crow Arts Manor. Chloe splits her time living in upstate New York and Portland, Oregon.

For information on author events or how to purchase the book, go to

  1. Sounds like a great book. I’m going to have to check it out. 🙂

  2. I hope you do, Andrea! Thanks for reading this review.

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