Updated: Sep 5, 2022
I am a huge lover of memoirs, and it has been awhile since I have added one to my #tbr. I have been trying to make a dent in the unread books on my bookshelf, so I recently plucked Things I Learned from Falling by Claire Nelson off my shelves. Nelson is a powerhouse. She survived three nights alone in a desolate area of Joshua Tree Park, having fractured her pelvis, unable to move, and with no cell phone reception to boot. I devoured this memoir and loved the underlying themes of building quality relationships to lean on, rather than living a life in solitude.
Memoirs are a tricky genre to review. I hate to spew any negativity against anyone brave enough to share their story, so I try and analyze all aspects of the book. Nelson is a gifted writer. It is apparent from the first few pages that she has experience in the industry where she has been a freelance writer for many well-known magazines.
Nelson begins her story by laying out the setting and her stage of life, before introducing the reader to what happened to her. Nelson is headstrong and independent, so much so that she embarks on a hiking trail in Joshua National Park without thinking through if anyone knows where she is or when she will be back. She makes such a poignant statement, that there is a general misconception that hiking is "just walking." But one slip, or one wrong turn, can turn a hike deadly. Nelson somehow takes the wrong path, slips and falls 10 feet where she breaks her pelvis, unable to move, and surrounded by rocks miles from the main trail. She then weaves the chapters of her survival story with backstory from her life, weaving in themes of the downside of self-reliance and not trusting others. Imagine laying on the desert floor, injured to the point where you can't move from the waist down, with little water and no idea if anyone even knows you are missing. It is unbelievable she was able to power through four days and three nights alone in the elements.
I resonated with Nelson's story and reflected on what I would do in her situation. There is no doubt that she is tough as nails and the circumstances that led up to her rescue are truly a miracle. So much had to fall into place for her to be found. I appreciated many aspects of her story and loved how she finished her book with tips on hiking safely. I recently have gotten into hiking and have done a couple trips to Sedona, Arizona, so I appreciated her advice (and now I want to hike Joshua National Park, though I will do so with much more safety awareness.)
"I thought about the amount of time I spent, that I wasted, sitting in my room pissing about on the internet. Hours on social media, clicking links, flicking through apps. Sucked down the rabbit hole of nothingness. Hours of my life just thrown in the bin. Gone. Like precious dollar bills fed into a slot machine that win you nothing. I'd gambled away so much time on something that gave nothing back, and that was a painful truth. It's as if boredom has become something to fear and to avoid at all costs."
"When you're trying to hang on to hope, the smallest strand will do."
"The woman who went to great pains to rely on no one, now had her life-or death-solely in the hands of other people."
"There was nowhere I needed to be but exactly where I was."
Read if you liked:
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
The movie 127 hours based on the book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston