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Bewildered (Laura Waters, Affirm)

Bewildered, a memoir by Laura Waters about hiking the Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand, will inevitably invite comparisons to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. On a surface level, there are some similarities. Waters is also hiking solo—although she meets many walking companions along the way—and is also trying to outrun her past. However, while readers who enjoyed Wild will no doubt be equally beguiled by Bewildered, the similarities stop there. Waters’ voice is distinctly Australian and her redemptive journey into the wilderness is more about finding herself than forgiving herself. She is in her mid-40s as opposed to her mid-20s, and grappling with a different set of questions about what a meaningful and fulfilled life involves. In flashbacks, she relives the anxiety she suffered at her ‘good’, albeit soul-destroying job and the tortuous collapse of her long-term relationship. However, Waters’ main focus is the trail itself. The Te Araroa—Maori for ‘the long pathway’—runs the entire length of New Zealand and the most fascinating parts of Bewildered involve Waters grappling with unforgiving terrain and unpredictable weather. She excels at depicting how our busy lives can lead us to forget the bigger picture. Nature enthusiasts and long-distance hikers alike will thoroughly enjoy Bewildered.

Hilary Simmons is a former assistant editor at Books+Publishing and a freelance copywriter, journalist and editor


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