Diva of the Appalachian Trail

| July 26, 2013 | 0 Comments

Called_Again_Cover_smallThe Women’s Adventure magazine book review group had the opportunity to read a pre-publication copy of Jennifer Pharr Davis’ new book, Called Again: a Story of Love and Triumph. We decided to try something different this time and wrote a group review. Our individual opinions are followed by our initials.

Jennifer Pharr Davis’ first book, Becoming Odyssa, recounted lessons learned during her first thru-hike of the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail in 2008. Subsequently, she became passionate about long-distance hiking and ultrarunning, logging over 11,000 miles over the next three years.

In Called Again, Jennifer describes her time setting the overall record for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 46 days in 2011. Hiking north to south (Maine to Georgia) she faced hypothermia, shin splints, complete exhaustion, and body breakdowns. In some places she literally crawled.

Supported throughout by her husband, family, and friends, she hiked sixteen hours a day, every day, pushing her body to the edge and beyond. Her stubborn determination and unwavering consistency were her best allies because she was miserable from the start, a situation that never improved. (More from Women’s Adventure about Jennifer Pharr Davis and her record hike here.)

For me, Jennifer’s new book wasn’t merely about her record-breaking hike—it was about her dedication to the trail and her husband’s dedication and love for her. She never would had broken the record without Brew’s support at the trailheads and the support she received from friends, hikers, trail-runners, and family who “muled” her pack for her. (JL)

Throughout Called Again, Davis apologizes for her self-professed diva behavior. The only way she could accomplish setting the trail record was to be fully supported every step of the way. Her husband set up camp for her every night and made sure she had meals, and friends frequently hiked with her, sometimes even carrying her pack. Yet she was consistently rude and abusive to all of the people who were there to help her. Given the extreme nature of her endeavor, some diva behavior might be expected, but reading about her fits of temper and subsequent apologies grew tiresome. (SM)

Called Again wasn’t action packed or edge-of-your-seat exciting but, like the AT, it was a steady and consistent story. Although I did enjoy the book, I found myself alienated by her almost constant whining and her awful treatment of her support team. I can’t help but think of those who came before her who shouldered heavy packs and carried the weight of their gear day after day and mile after mile. To Davis’ credit, she did hike through extreme sickness and physical injury, including ankles that needed to be taped her entire hike. I was shocked by the amount of calories Davis needed to consume, and loved reading about all the foods she would devour at road crossings and while hiking! Davis’s achievements are to be lauded for sure, and I’m curious if she has any more big hikes planned. (CC)

More than once, Davis claimed a higher purpose in completing this achievement, but it might have just been simpler to profess to a highly competitive nature. This feat required nothing less than her best at all times. It was difficult to read about Davis’ diva behavior toward her husband and friends while she also professed to believe that her hike was part of some larger divine plan. She needed to take responsibility for this goal, and stop blaming others when she was unhappy or things didn’t go right. Although this self-centeredness detracted from the story at times, there’s no disputing her phenomenal accomplishment. (KM)

Called Again confirmed Jennifer Pharr Davis’ ability to tell the story of her accomplishments well. The book is well-written and engaging to read, even if this group of readers did get frustrated with her attitude towards her support crew. It should definitely be on the reading list of those who enjoy vicariously experiencing feats of extreme athleticism and determination.

Reviewers: Cat Croteau, Jennifer Lu’Becke, Kristy McCaffrey, and Sharry Miller

Category: Blog, Books

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Written by the dedicated, hard-working Women's Adventure staff and their very generous team of volunteer writers. Want to lend a hand at making this splendid magazine even more splendid? Contact us at digital.diva@womensadventuremagazine.com and let us know!

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