Feral Losing myself and finding my way in America's national parks

Emily Pennington

Book - 2023

"After a decade as an assistant to high-powered LA executives, Emily Pennington left behind her structured life and surrendered to the pull of the great outdoors. With a tight budget, meticulous routing, and a temperamental minivan she named Gizmo, Emily embarked on a yearlong road trip to sixty-two national parks, hell-bent on a single goal: getting through the adventure in one piece. She was instantly thrust into more chaos than she'd bargained for and found herself on an unpredictable journey rocked by a gutting romantic breakup, a burgeoning pandemic, wildfires, and other seismic challenges that threatened her safety, her sanity, and the trip itself. What began as an intrepid obsession soon evolved into a life-changing experie...nce"--

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 917.352/Pennington Checked In
Travel writing
New York : Little A [2023]
Main Author
Emily Pennington (author)
First edition
Physical Description
249 pages : illustrations, map ; 22 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

In this visceral memoir, travel writer Pennington depicts a year devoted to visiting 62 U.S. national parks. After saving for three years, she heads out in her minivan, Gizmo, named for "her complex machinery and her unpredictable temperament." Along the way, readers learn about all aspects of road travel including pee funnels, marauding raccoons, and more. Black and white photographs of the author at various national parks are scattered throughout the text. The trip is full of unexpected twists and turns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, weather catastrophes, and a painful romantic breakup midway through the trip. Forced to face loneliness head-on, Pennington emerges realizing that she was "strong and capable and joyful and resilient." Pennington's story of personal growth is told with unflinching insight and immense awe at the natural wonders she encounters; her expressive storytelling is sure to engage and inspire readers.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Travel writer Pennington recounts her yearlong road trip to 62 of America's national parks in her winning debut. After three years of saving and planning, 32-year-old Pennington left behind her life in Los Angeles to cultivate an identity that was "free of the confines of city or man." Her boyfriend, Adam, accompanied her on parts of the trip, which exposed the couple's "core incompatibilities." After the pair reached Alaska, Pennington confronted Adam about his "relationship indecision," and he broke up with her, but they finished the trip "like a pair of old friends." After returning to California, Pennington resumed her travels alone in an attempt to turn her heartache into inner strength: "I had one job and one job only: to take care of Emily while I drew a constellation across America with my wheels." Pennington lyrically describes the wonders of the natural world ("Stars began twinkling onto the obsidian tapestry of night"), and she examines her solo life on the road with unsentimental insight ("Loneliness began to grow limbs and pummel me"). Readers will relish this hopeful portrayal of personal growth. Agent: Chad Luibl, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Feb.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A freelance travel journalist drops out of the rat race to spend a year visiting every national park in the U.S. At 32, Pennington walked away from an unfulfilling job as an assistant to Los Angeles executives to embark on the wilderness tour of her dreams. "I had grown weary of spending my waking hours managing the lives of other, more successful people," she writes. The author outfitted a minivan with a mattress and all the "creature comforts" she could cram inside and headed to her first stop in Joshua Tree National Park. There she encountered her first obstacles: worries over personal safety and her ability to handle the adventure she had chosen. Gradually, deeper anxieties involving the inner "feral child" who had felt abandoned by her parents began to emerge. Pennington believed that the natural world that had saved her from despair once before would help her find balance, but her obsession with pushing limits and the unexpected onset of the Covid-19 pandemic weeks after she started left her feeling more vulnerable than she expected. The journey--which took her all over the continental U.S., Hawaii, Alaska, and the Virgin Islands--revealed that a relationship she thought would lead to marriage had been a union of incompatible opposites. Forced to confront the loneliness she feared, Pennington continued her travels to the end despite the mounting personal uncertainties, the risks posed by the pandemic, and the emotional health that made her feel like she could "no longer trust the narrative of [her] own mind." The author's unflinching honesty and the boldness of her inner and outer journeys are the two great strengths of a book that sometimes overreaches with too-florid natural descriptions. Despite this flaw, the memoir still succeeds in offering a moving portrait of a woman who came into her own by learning to let go. Fierce, candid reading. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.