3 of 3
Girl in the Woods
384 pages; William Morrow
On the second day of college, 18-year-old Matis is raped by a classmate in her dorm room. Struggling with fear and depression, as well her university's institutional indifference, she drops out, leaving her sheltered childhood behind. She takes to the woods, resolving to hike the Pacific Coast Trail. Though openly reminiscent of Cheryl Strayed's Wild—down to the symbolism of her chosen pen name—Matis—makes her journey wholly her own, from Mexico all the way to Canada. Along the way, she renders the hippie subculture of her fellow hikers in vivid prose—despite the occasional tip over into florid poesy—and is at her sharpest when she looks at her flailing search for approval in the arms of men or under the watchdog eye of her mother, hoping to find the path to confidence. After a run-in with caged animals at a zoo near the trail, she writes, "Great as these creatures were, they had no power to free themselves and reclaim their bodies...I had the power to move out of the cage he put me in, to escape the trap." An achingly honest read that's both timely—and timeless.
— Elisabeth Donnelly