Books on the Nightstand: Wild Man and Tough Girl

Is there anything better than discovering really good books written by people you know, about places you love?

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Wildman, J.C. Geiger.

Jeff Geiger is over the top fun. I met him when he was regional coordinator for a grant funding program with Oregon Community Foundation. Not a word from him about being a writer though, until the day he announced a book he’d written had been picked up by Disney Hyperion. Yes, it really does happen.

Wildman is the story of an 18-year-old over-achiever on a road trip in his beloved ancient car, a gift from an absent father. He has a proper girlfriend and is headed for graduation and a prestigious music university (he hopes). The car breaks down in a tiny Pacific Northwest town, bringing the trip to a halt. When he connects with local kids, his carefully constructed world suddenly begins to unravel. This is a sweet and gritty story, fast paced, and pretty funny. A nice gift for a graduating high school senior, if you don’t mind a little not-explicit sex and outright mischief.

To celebrate his book publication, Jeff headed out, of course, on a road trip in his own ancient car and raised $4,000 for libraries.

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Tough Girl: An Olympian’s Journey, Carolyn Wood.

Imagine being 14, heading to the Olympics. That was Caroline Wood, 1960, Rome.

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Fast forward fifty years. To help herself recover from the breakup of a long marriage, Carolyn decides to hike the Camino de Santiago, alone. She relates in quiet detail the long days of her pilgrimage, weaving into the narrative the story of how she became a champion swimmer. She writes simply and beautifully about challenges and heartaches along the way. I came away from this book with a proprietary sense, as if I’d gone on those journeys with her. For former Portlanders like myself, the story is a poignant revisit to old pools we swam in as kids, and brings alive the Portland, Oregon, I knew as a child, before it was a mecca.

Wood infuses the story with hope and sometimes painful honesty. This is how we succeed and how we recover. We remember, take time for ourselves, swim one lap, take one step, again and again and again. A lovely and inspiring book.

Featured image photo: Charles Williams

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