A contemplation of women relating to one another in nature, nestled within the tale of a backpacking trip.
In 1993, Suzanne Roberts was a college graduate lacking a firm plan for the future when she agreed to hike the John Muir Trail with two other women. Almost Somewhere is a travelogue of that month-long hike, but it’s also a woman’s foray into the male-dominated worlds of hiking and nature writing and a contemplation of the cattiness and competition that limits women’s attempts to connect with one another. Roberts is not gentle to herself or her companions as she describes their flaws and failures to support one another; she is frank about the bounds of their friendship. But she has a triumphant story to tell, because despite swollen joints, bugs, infighting and the doubts of fellow trail users, these three women hiked the John Muir Trail in its entirety and lived to tell about it.
Roberts writes plainly about gender issues, as the women (“we had gone through puberty a long time ago and, really, we were no longer girls”) consult a guidebook written by a man filled with language of “conquering” or “assaulting” mountains. She seeks not only meaningful relationships with other women, but also a feminine understanding of nature, having read nature writing only by men (Muir, Thoreau, Edward Abbey) up until this point. Her understanding of her experience is clear-headed and self-aware in retrospect, and she is considerate of her companions even in her criticism. Almost Somewhere is a contribution to the growing body of women’s nature writing, and a worthwhile, entertaining and occasionally funny story of the California wilderness.
This review originally ran as a *starred review* in the Sept. 4, 2012 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!