I think for starters I should mention that I’m not a nature person. In my own life (and in my writing), it’s pretty rare for me to wax poetic about the great outdoors. But this doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate other writers who do. “Miracle Country” is a memoir that examines Kendra Atleework’s connection to both the California desert and the impact her mother’s death had on her as a young girl.
I’m usually a fan of more linear memoirs that describe someone’s story chronologically, but Atleework did a wonderful job linking all of the major events of her life back to her ties to where she grew up in the Owens Valley of the Eastern Sierra Nevada. You can feel her deep kinship with every part of nature, so that the setting almost becomes another relative in her life (just as dear to her as her parents and siblings).
I found that a few different writers came to mind when reading “Miracle Country.” While this doesn’t make the book altogether unique, it did make me feel like Atleework’s writing could be held up next to these other works in worthy comparison. Her journey of healing surrounding the death of her mother and her drive to relate to the wonders of nature reminded me quite a bit of Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild.” Atleework also quotes many writers in her book to support her examination of the environment of California. Before I saw Joan Didion’s name in the text, I had already thought of her. Few other writers are able to capture the true mercurial vibe of California like her, and I was glad to see that Atleework referenced her as well in her own writing.
This book also benefitted greatly from the historical aspect that Atleework was able to weave throughout the story. As a California native, I was intrigued by her descriptions of William Mulholland, who did so much to shape how Californians access and view our water supply. Descriptions of Native Americans who battled to keep their land and how early pioneers fought to survive among the wildest of elements (fire, earthquakes, blizzards, you name it) gave this book extra depth that was much appreciated.
Despite my lack of affinity for the outdoors, I was able to crawl inside Atleework’s world – filled with tackling mountain climbs and crawling through the memories of a mother who was gone way too soon. The easy flow to her writing and her insightful connections to the elements that have formed her life definitely made this a worthwhile read.
*Free ARC provided by Algonquin in exchange for an honest review*