Girl in the Woods…
Girl in the Woods is Aspen Matis’s exhilarating true-life adventure of hiking from Mexico to Canada—a coming of age story, a survival story, and a triumphant story of overcoming emotional devastation. On her second night of college, Aspen was raped by a fellow student. Overprotected by her parents who discouraged her from telling of the attack, Aspen was confused and ashamed. Dealing with a problem that has sadly become all too common on college campuses around the country, she stumbled through her first semester—a challenging time made even harder by the coldness of her college’s “conflict mediation” process. Her desperation growing, she made a bold decision: She would seek healing in the freedom of the wild, on the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail leading from Mexico to Canada.
In this inspiring memoir, Aspen chronicles her journey, a five-month trek that was ambitious, dangerous, and transformative. A nineteen-year-old girl alone and lost, she conquered desolate mountain passes and met rattlesnakes, bears, and fellow desert pilgrims. Exhausted after each thirty-mile day, at times on the verge of starvation, Aspen was forced to confront her numbness, coming to terms with the sexual assault and her parents’ disappointing reaction. On the trail and on her own, she found that survival is predicated on persistent self-reliance. She found her strength. After a thousand miles of solitude, she found a man who helped her learn to love and trust again—and heal.
Told with elegance and suspense, Girl in the Woods is a beautifully rendered story of eroding emotional and physical boundaries to reveal the truths that lie beyond the edges of the map.
I’ve taken my time reading this book, not because I wasn’t enjoying it, but because it gave me much to think over after each session. It’s not the best written book, nor is Aspen/Debbie immune to the flaw of getting on your nerves, but by the time you reach the end of this memoir, you reach a place of understanding; Aspen is an incredibly honest writer, a necessity in a memoir but not always a given.
Within the pages of Girl in the Woods, Aspen’s honesty opens herself up to the harshest of scrutiny. The enormity of what Aspen has done; this girl walked from Mexico to Canada, often times alone, in a journey of self discovery. The internal place she arrives at when she finishes is different even from what she envisaged, and that’s what makes this book so good. This is not a story told in hindsight. It’s a story that unfolds, changes, changes again, and then again.
I am absolutely stunned by the fact that people walk this type of journey all the time. I can hardly comprehend it. The generosity of those who help these hikers all along the way is humbling; just incredible. Overall, this was an excellent memoir. I would have liked a little more clarity on some of the details of Aspen’s life post walk, but other than that, I highly recommend Girl in the Woods to readers of all ages.