As someone who aspires to hike the Appalachian Trail in my lifetime, the White Mountains are oftentimes a part of my research or the videos I watch, with over one hundred miles of the AT traveling through the range. This is one of the most grueling albeit beautiful parts of the hike. When I discovered Cheryl Suchors’ book, 48 Peaks: Hiking and Healing in the White Mountains by She Writes Press on Netgalley, I almost felt as if it was speaking to me personally! I just had to have it, not only because I love a good memoir, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn more about hiking this area of our country.
Floundering in her second career, the one she’s always wanted, forty-eight-year-old Cheryl Suchors resolves that, despite a fear of heights, her mid-life success depends on hiking the highest of the grueling White Mountains in New Hampshire. All forty-eight of them. She endures injuries, novice mistakes, and the heartbreaking loss of a best friend. When breast cancer threatens her own life, she seeks solace and recovery in the wild. Her quest takes ten years. Regardless of the need since childhood to feel successful and in control, climbing teaches her mastery isn’t enough and control is often an illusion.
Connecting with friends and with nature, Suchors redefines success: she discovers a source of spiritual nourishment, spaces powerful enough to absorb her grief, and joy in the persistence of love and beauty. 48 Peaks inspires us to believe that, no matter what obstacles we face, we too can attain our summits.
While this was a slower read for me because of the immense detail and span of years, friendship, and life covered, I couldn’t skip a single word. I had to know what would happen next, almost as if I was reading a fictional novel. I was inspired by something on nearly every page, feeling as if I could accomplish anything after I finished this book. Cheryl’s strength both mentally and physically is awe-inspiring. She battled numerous injuries, cancer, death, and the normal demands one would face in the span of ten years. Simply, this is a tale of a life of a woman determined to accomplish her goal, despite the tremendous obstacles standing in her way.
Being able to learn about the condition of the body, challenges, people, and acts of nature making each individual hike difficult was one of my favorite things about this read. These are things I look forward to learning about this topic and I was happy to see everything I hoped for was covered in this novel.
The biggest thing I took away from reading 48 Peaks was the human ability to accomplish anything we put our minds to, if only we keep trying. Cheryl faced basically every hardship a person can experience in life within the ten-year span of chipping away at her goal. Most people would have given up, no doubt Cheryl felt like she should at times, but after each set-back, her resolve only strengthened. Cheryl Suchors’ impeccable will almost makes me feel a well of emotions, just thinking about it. I want to be a woman with as strong of a mind, unable to accept failure; instead, seeing impediments as another mountain to climb whether those mountains are physical or metaphorical.
I’m so thankful for the chance to have been able to read Cheryl’s story and bear witness to her huge accomplishment, if only in writing. 48 Peaks gets a strong 4-stars from me, only losing one star for the organization of the story as a whole. I can’t recommend this fantastic memoir enough. Even if you don’t find yourself being an outdoorswoman, this book is worth picking up, as it delves into the issues we face as women, motherhood, friendship, and the heartbreaking loss of people we love. I guarantee this book will make readers feel inspired and moved to take action in their own lives, no matter their goals.
Cheryl, you are a superhero!
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