This is part of my Summer Reads series where I’ll be reviewing a series of “not just cookbooks”.
Ever wonder what you would do if you were lost in the desert with very little likelihood of being found? Claire Neslon found herself in exactly this position in 2018 and Things I Learned From Falling is her story.
From the publisher:
In 2018, Claire Nelson made international headlines. She was in her thirties and was beginning to burn out – her hectic London life of work and social activity and striving to do more and do better in the big city was frenetic and stressful. Although she was surrounded by people all of the time, she felt increasingly lonely.
When the anxiety she felt finally brought her to breaking point, Claire decided to take some time off and travelled to Joshua Tree Park in California to hike and clear her head. What happened next was something she could never have anticipated.
While hiking, Claire fell 25 feet, gravely injuring herself and she lay alone in the desert – mistakenly miles off any trail, without a cell phone signal, fighting for her life. She lay in the elements for four days until she was miraculously found – her rescuers had not expected to find her alive.
In Things I learned from Falling Claire tells her incredible story and what it taught her about loneliness, anxiety and transformation and how to survive it all.
So, I don’t *know* Claire Nelson but I have been following her on Instagram for years now. I followed her as she lived and worked in London and I wished her well as she turned her back on her London life and the burnout it resulted in, heading first to Canada but then ending up in Joshua Tree National Park where she was to house and catsit for friends for a couple of weeks. She’s excited to be out in the middle of nowhere with space to think and recharge and spend time in nature. Having visited the park a number of years ago, I can see what a great place it would be to take a step back from life to reconsider, well, everything.
Claire is an experienced hiker but on the day of her accident, though she takes care to bring enough water with her, she doesn’t formally let anyone know where she is going. Her walk doesn’t go to planned and she falls, off the trail and knows immediately that the likelihood of being found (quickly) is very low. And so, she is alone. With very little food and water and, importantly, no shelter in the middle of a desert. Alone with her thoughts. For four days.
As I already knew the outcome of this story and had followed along her dramatic rescue (I remember being SO surprised when I saw her rescue photo on Instagram – thinking “Wow, that’s right, it’s been a few days since she posted…”), I wondered how an account of her time in the desert as she awaited rescue might translate to an actual book. I’d read plenty of interviews with Claire but – a whole book?
In fact, it’s one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in a long time. It’s raw but not in an over-the-top way that a dramatic rescue story might be. Claire spends her time in the desert thinking back on her old life – so many “what ifs” and regrets about things she could have, should have done… She regrets, ironically the thing that ends up saving her – spending so much time on the social media. It was her lack of posting on social media for a few days that alerted people to to the fact that something might be wrong… It’s an intimate look at the inner workings of someone who is facing near-certain death but who has so much fight in her she literally will do anything to keep herself alive.
This is a gripping, fascinating tale that will make your heart race. Even if you know the outcome, it’s a tense read that will have you turning the pages, wanting more, needing to make sure Claire’s ok. Don’t start it late at night – you won’t be able to put it down. I read it in a few hours on a flight to Australia, the week it came out and have since read it again.
An uplifting tale of determination and hope. Which we could all use more of right now.
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