Title: The Word for Woman is Wilderness
Author: Abi Andrews
Format: Digital ARC, 315 pages
Publication Details: Published February 1st 2018 by Serpent’s Tail
Genre(s): General Fiction; Adventure
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.
Erin is 19. She’s never really left England, but she has watched Bear Grylls and wonders why it’s always men who get to go on all the cool wilderness adventures. So Erin sets off on a voyage into the Alaskan wilderness, a one-woman challenge to the archetype of the rugged male explorer.
As Erin’s journey takes her through the Arctic Circle, across the entire breadth of the American continent and finally to a lonely cabin in the wilds of Denali, she explores subjects as diverse as the moon landings, the Gaia hypothesis, loneliness, nuclear war, shamanism and the pill.
Filled with a sense of wonder for the natural world and a fierce love for preserving it, The Word for Woman is Wilderness is a funny, frank and tender account of a young woman in uncharted territory.
I think this is the book I wanted to read when I picked up Flat Broke with Two Goats at the beginning of the year. Although The Word for Woman is Wilderness is fiction, it very much reads as a memoir, as we follow the determined, opinionated, and philosophical Erin on a courageous adventure from England to the Alaskan wilderness via everywhere in between.
I lapped up the first half of this book. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read before. Protagonist, and narrator Erin is a tour de force of feminist, ecological, and philosophical thought, which effortlessly pours out of her during every step of her solitary wilderness adventure. She discusses inequality, gender, freedom, solitude, nature, space…you name it, Erin has an opinion on it.
One of the main things I found interesting about this book (and there were many) was Erin’s pondering on why it’s OK for men to want to be alone but not women. A woman alone in a pub, restaurant, or cinema still seems to be shocking, or at the very least unusual, today. But no one looks twice at a man sat by himself. And the same goes for explorers.
I feel like Erin answers a lot of her own questions throughout the novel, without really meaning to. Such as the whole being in solitude thing, or not needing/wanting help from men, because whether she likes it or not, she is constantly surrounded by people who she finds it difficult to shake off. People, mostly men, whom also want to help her, but in turn end up holding her back.
It’s certainly a thought-provoking read, especially if you’re interested in gender roles and equality. Are women naturally more sociable than men? Do they crave friendship and warmth more than men? Do men naturally have an urge to protect women, which in turn often seems to undermine them?
The only bad thing I can say about this book is that at times it was a bit much. A bit too intense, a few too many tangents and rants and repetition of thoughts, which made me want to keep putting it down.
It is however, a book that made me daydream and will stay with me for a long time, and for that it was completely worth the read.