I’d think that there’d be few of us out there who’ve not reached a crossroads or two in our lives. Times when hard decisions needed to be made, decisions that were only possible after much soul searching, and sometimes, sacrifice.
Patricia A. Bowmer’s Akilina: Out of the Woods is very much the story of just such a crossroads. Halley is at rock bottom, lost both literally and figuratively:
“Halley has led a life marred by indecision and poor choices. Abused by lovers and herself, when she marries Sean, a good man, she can’t bear his love. The day she plans to leave him, her car is forced from a suspension bridge, plunging deep into a fast-flowing river. But Halley is given one more chance, when ten-year-old Eden opens the door between Halley’s past, present and future. She embarks on a wild and dangerous adventure, through dark woods, vast tundras, and to the top of the highest peaks, encountering her long-ago selves, and battling a mysterious but strangely familiar nemisis. Frightened, lost, but determined to succeed, she is in search of herself, her baby, and a life worth living.”
The novel is a story of heartbreak, reflection and self-analysis.
One of the first things that struck me about this novel is the intense physicality of the story, Halley’s body, breath and presence are strongly felt, and as she becomes disorientated but wildly-driven in the wilderness, her physical activity becomes a major focus of the novel:
“…she was reminded of the joy of speed – she increased the speed herself to a spirited run. It was not a fleeing sort of run; it was a run of celebration. The exhilaration of running downhill! There it was, in the sound of her feet on the loose leaves, in the sweat that formed on her brow and arms.”
The physicality isn’t really surprising, given the background of the author, Patricia A. Bowmer. I had a chance to catch up with Patricia earlier this year, and it was obvious from the outset that she held a great passion for activity, for fitness and for a joyful state of mind. On chatting to me, she gave a little more information as to how this novel came about…
I began adventure racing in 2003, to challenge my limits. The racing has informed writing for both my non-fiction book In Pursuit of Joy: Life Lessons from Exhilaration, and my novel Akilina: Out of the Woods.
Sprint Races in Hong Kong which involved coastal rock scrambling, trail running, climbing up and down waterfalls, steep hills, swimming in the sea and in reservoirs. I’ve competed in about 20 of these, in places like Sai Kung, Lamma Island, Lantau Island, and Repulse Bay.
Orienteering Oriented Races. I’ve done several of these in Australia, including ones at Lysterfield Lake, the You Yangs, and Daylesford (the Wombat State Forest). They have involved trail running, mountain biking, swimming and kayaking, in two-person teams.
Straight trail running which is similar to adventure racing without the major obstacles. I competed in the Salomon Trail Series in 2011, with events at Mount Macedon, the Dandenongs, and Studley Park.
Multi-Sport races held at Lorne (The Anaconda Adventure Race). I did the 15k trail race in a team of 3. My team mates did a 1.2k swim, a 12k kayak, and an 18k mountain bike.
Tough Bloke/Cool Chick Challenge included an 8k trail run, combined with man-made obstacles like swinging on ropes, monkey bars, climbing over walls, etc. Hard-core!
The final chapter in In Pursuit of Joy described my early experiences racing, some of which I did to provide further material for that book.
Much of the “adventure” text in Akilina comes from my experiences in rough terrain in these races, and the emotions brought about by battling this terrain.
My firm belief is that the lessons we learn in sports like adventure racing directly influence the other areas of our lives. In the woods and mountains, I learned to trust myself and my abilities. Halley’s journey teaches her something akin to this.
It is clear that in this ambitious novel, full of allegory and illustration – that the link between the body and the mind is close and vital. Halley learns to trust her intuition, difficult but valuable. She also, through meeting her ‘other selves’, faces her demons, learns to trust in her own abilities and in the long run, forgives herself. Only at this point can she make the important decisions on which her future depends.
This is an intriguing novel, and holds many valuable lessons.
If you’d like to find out more about the author, Patricia, you can visit her website. Her work is very inspiring, and she’s lots to share.
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