Book Review: Girl in the Woods

Girl in the Woods

In this memoir, Aspen Matis outlines her physical journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, as well as her spiritual journey on the path to healing. For Matis, the journey is learning to trust people again, and finding the strength to face her rape on her second night of college. On her walk she faces miles without water, dangerous icy terrain, and trail magic. At the end, in Canada, she finds her voice to tell her family and all the men who have hurt her that she is strong and will not be a victim ever again.

My reactions to this book were on both sides of the extreme. I felt very sad for Aspen, because of her rape and the institutions who neglect to help her. As a woman, I take rape very seriously; it is something no one should have to go through. I was thinking of my sister as I read this book, and how angry I would be if something like this happened. I would be angry at her rapist, the school and also her. Not because she was raped, but because she would think the solution would be to drop out of school and go hike over 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada. I was appalled when I read that Aspen was going with the intention of doing it alone. Most hikers on the PCT would be men, how could she expect to heal from something that was cause by a man surrounded by men? After finishing the book, I understood that she needed to be able to face them again without being afraid, but that point didn’t reach me until I was more than halfway finished with the book.

"I BIT INTO A GREEN APPLE, THEN SAW I'D NEARLY STEPPED ON A RATTLESNAKE, JUST SKIMMED ITS EDGE; THE SNAKE LAY ACROSS THE TRAIL LIKE THE SHADOW OF A BRANCH, AT LEAST THREE FEET LONG. ITS BROWN AND BEIGE MOSAIC, STARK AND DISTINCT AGAINST DUST. I SHRIEKED."

Aspen’s recollection of the hike creates a truly thrilling story that ends wonderfully when she meets a man she can trust and heal with. I highly recommend this book for everyone who wants to do some extra reading this semester, it even has pictures Aspen took in the middle!