June Week 5: Biography and Summary

This week I decided to read Up: a Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventureby Patricia Ellis Herr.  While it is not a complete story of someone’s life, this book caught my eye.  The story chronicles Herr and her daughter, Alex, ascending the 48 mountain peaks in New Hampshire that are over 4,000 ft tall.

Peakbagging in New Hampshire

Herr is a home schooling, stay-at-home mom who spends a fair amount of the book discussing her views on child rearing.  Primarily expounded on is how she feels about allowing her children to grow as individuals, without societal pressure to conform to one mold or another.  Herr also mentions how important nature is to her and her husband, and their desire to get their children out into nature early and as often as possible.  After learning about the peakbagging program in New Hampshire, Herr mentions it to Alex, who responds enthusiastically to the challenge.  At the time of their first climb, Alex in 5 years old.

The book doesn’t talk about every experience at every peak, but rather chooses memorable stories from several.  Herr and Alex come across moose, slugs, spiders, and a particularly cross spruce grouse.  They hike in all seasons and Alex develops a fondness for winter hikes especially.  Towards the middle-to-end of the book, they begin to hike with others on occasion, but still do a fair amount on their own.  There are a few “life lessons” along the way;

  • the dangers of carelessness – the husband, Hugh, told his story of how he lost both legs while hiking
  • ageism – many others assumed that Alex couldn’t, or was being coerced to, hike large mountains
  • sexism – they were asked if it was safe to hike without a man present (it is!)
  • life and death – a lone juvenile moose exhibiting odd behaviors sparks a conversation on where his mother could be

The husband, Hugh, and second daughter, Sage, are not featured very prominently within the chronicle.  Sage was three years old, so hiking several miles at a time was a bit much for her and so she only joined Herr and Alex a few times.  Hugh was described as a very supportive partner who took care of Sage while Herr and Alex hiked every other weekend.  At the end of the book, Herr mentions that she began writing the book before she realized that Sage would be quickly following in Alex’s footsteps, otherwise she would have waited to be able to include Sage’s exploits.

Overall, it was a quick and easy read.  I did read some of the amazon reviews prior to buying the book so some of my comments may be a bit biased.  Herr stated repeatedly that Alex was: mature for her age, not like other kids, stronger than she looked, etc.  Perhaps because they encountered many people and situations where Alex’s competency was questioned, but I felt that she could have cut down on that a bit.  I would have liked to have learned more about Sage and Hugh, though this may have been a bit outside of the scope of the story since they didn’t come with Herr and Alex very often.  Other than those two minor issues, I would recommend this for a light read.

June Reading:

I enjoyed getting out of my “comfort zone” genres, particularly with the history/biography weeks.  I would be very interested in reading more travel biographies, as I had a hard time picking one from all the other interesting sounding books.  I would call June a success!

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