Tamar Glouberman writes about the places we seek and the ones we discover, both in the natural world and inside ourselves. Words :: Joanna Croston.
Chasing Rivers, a memoir by Canadian wilderness guide Tamar Glouberman, is immensely readable and has a sassy and thoughtful tone. The book recounts her life as a whitewater kayaking and rafting guide, often the only female on staff, at a time when the narrative was largely constructed by men.
The author is not shy about tackling misogyny, mental health, sexuality and risk in her book—all part of her decades of experience on the water. Glouberman draws you into the wilderness, but boldly diminishes any preconceived notions of it as a place of peace and serenity; there is turbulence, energy and power in the water.
Listen to Tamar and Feet Banks discuss love, life, death, rapids and why you probably can’t write a good book if you’re worried what your parents will think:
Glouberman faces sexism and tests of fortitude at every turn, which drive her harder than ever to prove herself worthy of guide status. She has bouts of PTSD after several dangerous situations turn for the worse and she’s made to live with the repercussions of her actions, often blaming herself for accidents that were likely unavoidable.
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Time after time, Glouberman heads back on the water seeking reassurance and comfort in the flow of the rivers she loves. The best parts of this book are the lyrical landscape impressions painted of the wild rivers of the Canadian North. Remote and unforgiving, the Tatshenshini, Chilko and Firth rivers pull the reader in and under.
Whether or not intended, Chasing Rivers can’t help but be a book about female empowerment and the inner strength of women who are cast into desperate situations, both physical and mental. Glouberman never explicitly confesses a desire to mentor a generation of young women at her heels, but it’s hard to imagine that this book won’t impact women who read it and inspire them to venture forth and dive deep into the waters of their own ability.
Chasing Rivers isn’t just for women either, it’s for anyone who has ever set out on a journey and returned a changed person. There’s a familiarity of experience here that us mountain folk can all relate to and learn from. Chasing Rivers reminds us to pursue our dreams—we may find peaceful eddies along the way or charge through the rapids at full speed. Both are equally rewarding and shape us into the adventurers we hope to be.
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