Rating:

9780393343465_p0_v3_s260x420Reviewed by Krista Castner

A Little More About Me, a collection of essays from Pam Houston, covers many topics, locations and activities but the common thread throughout is about how the author is finding her way home to her true self.

Houston is the Director of Creative Writing at U.C. Davis. This mix of memoir vignettes, travel essays, and adventure stories never failed to entertain me. Houston struggles to reconcile her turbulent, chaotic childhood with the turbulent outdoor feats she’s set for herself. She chronicles travels on five continents and captures the uniqueness of each experience eloquently.

Her essays of a more personal nature were thought provoking and touching. The essay, “The Morality of Fat” was fantastic. In it Houston talks about her struggles for self-acceptance of her own body image. About how that image was cruelly skewed by the words and attitudes of her mother and father, and how she’s trying to move beyond those words and attitudes. It resonated with me as I imagine it will for a great portion of American women. In the essay Houston says, “In just one year of my life I managed to get a book of short stories published, run seven of the country’s most difficult rivers, lead a photographic safari in Africa, and teach a bunch of eighteen-year-old Mormon students to love poetry. Surely keeping off fifteen pounds can’t be harder than all that.” But it is.

Another great essay talks about the dogs of Park City, Utah. Houston has a fondness for dogs in general, and a deep love for her own dogs. Anyone who has an animal family member of their own will appreciate the stories that involve her dogs.

What memoir would be complete with some discussion about the various men in the writer’s life? Houston talks frankly about the partners she’s selected and how her choices of the quiet outdoorsmen, and backcountry guides were really an extension of striving for approval from her critical father. It sounds kind of smarmy when distilling the idea here, but the essays are insightful and moving.

Her final essay, “Home is Where your Dogs Are” is a loving tribute to her dog Jackson as well as the perfect end-piece for this collection of stories. Houston realizes that she has found her first real home on a 120 acre ranch 9,000 feet high in the Colorado Rockies.

There is such a breadth of life experiences; travels; and self-awareness about her inner struggles in this book. It was inspiring to me.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Krista lives just outside the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Lamentably, her work as a technical writer and business analyst often interferes with her reading which is a true passion.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by W. W. Norton & Company. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.