About this book: Steph Davis is a superstar in the climbing community and has ascended some of the world’s most awe-inspiring peaks. But when her husband makes a controversial climb in a national park, the media fallout—and the toll it takes on her marriage—suddenly leaves her without a partner, a career, a source of income . . . or a purpose.
In the company of only her beloved dog, Fletch, Davis sets off on a search for a new identity and discovers skydiving. Though falling out of an airplane is completely antithetical to the climber’s control she’d practiced for so long, she turns each daring jump into an opportunity to fly, first as a skydiver, then as a base jumper, and finds herself indelibly changed. As she opens herself to falling, she also finds the strength to open herself to love again, even in the wake of heartbreak. And before too long, she fortuitously meets someone who shares her passions.
Learning to Fly is Davis’s fascinating account of her transformation. From her early tentative skydives, to zipping into her first wingsuit, to surviving devastating accidents against the background of breathtaking cliffs, to soaring beyond her past limits, she discovers new hope and joy in letting go. Learning to Fly isn’t just an adventure but a woman’s story of risk-taking and self-discovery, with love at its heart.
Judge this book by its cover? The front artwork wouldn’t have persuaded me to pick it up, but the back photo, which shows Davis free soloing up a sheer rock face, would have piqued my interest.
Reminds me of…Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed. North of Hope: A Daughter’s Arctic Journey by Shannon Polson.
Buy or borrow? Buy if you enjoy memoirs, stories about overcoming, extreme sports.
Why did I read this book? Received it from Touchstone for review.
Rating: 4/5 stars. An uncommon answer to universal questions.
My take: After being hit by a series of crises, Steph Davis knew she had to take a giant step back and retool. And though her particular situation might not be one everyone can identify with, her general quandary is: “Whatever might happen in life,” Steph Davis writes, “whether I liked it or didn’t like it, I could know one thing for sure: it would change. There was absolute certainty in uncertainty.”
Davis writes in a spare style, which you might expect from a woman who quit law school to pursue the ascetic, living-out-of-a-trunk lifestyle of a climber. She also writes with a refreshingly clean voice. Unlike many contemporary memoirs, you’ll find nothing off-color within these pages. It’s not a tell-all. She doesn’t even mention her ex-husband’s first name into well into her story. On the contrary, Davis is unfailingly modest about herself and kind about others.
She includes more detail about climbing, wingsuits, skydiving and base jumping that most of us will ever need to know. But she also writes so poignantly about her beloved pooch, Fletcher, that it made me teary at times. “Fletch had a spirit so strong it put me to shame. I watched her closely…because she was showing me yet again the right way to live–never giving up, doing the best she could, with a smile on her face….She loved the moments of her life.”
All in all, Learning to Fly is a provocative, thoughtful memoir about finding the courage to name our fears, to face them down, and to always, always be willing to try something new.
Thanks to Touchstone/Simon & Schuster for providing me a copy to review. All opinions are mine.
For more fascinating info about Steph Davis, visit her online at (what else?) highinfatuation.com.
And stay tuned. On Friday, my review of Get Back Up: Trusting God When Life Knocks You Down.