Let Them Paddle, by Alan S. Kesselheim – Review

Let Them Paddle: Coming of Age on the WaterLet Them Paddle: Coming of Age on the Water by Alan S. Kesselheim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In middle age the notion of doing what you love and then figuring out how to make a living at it gets ever more attractive. I cringe at the notion of my old business buddies calling and asking how my new publishing biz is going. They listen politely and if feeling dismissive say it sounds more like an expensive hobby and if expansive that it must be a labor of love. It is about the land for me, and I do love it. And I do intend to make it into a business.

Al Kesselheim is making a living as an avid outdoorsman, as in look it up in the dictionary and it says “see Kesselheim.” He met and fell in love with his wife in the backcountry of southern Utah. She may be even more intense about living in natural places than he is. They were into big expeditions, including two year long canoe trips in Canada. They bought a Pakboat canoe, folded it up, packed their gear, hired a float plane, and in they went. Along the way, after numerous heartbreaking failed pregnancies, all three of their children ended up on their first canoe trips, in the womb. His wife, Marypat Zitzer, knows that it is not good science to speculate, but the fact that she was out in her beloved wilds when she first was able to take a pregnancy to term she thought was not a coincidence.

As a writer, Kesselheim makes hay out of his experiences in this memoir. I hope he is still able to make a living this way. As a close observer, as good writers are, he more deeply enjoyed the growth of his kids than many of us might do. The backbone of the book is three river trips with his young adult kids on the rivers they first ran in Mom. The places and people are observed, the wildness indulged, and the kids grow up natural citizens of their environment. It was a chuckle how often the Kesselheims enjoyed being in outback nature au naturale.

Kesselheim is a naturalist who knows his flora and fauna. It is part of the pleasure of going along for the ride. As a guy who enjoys looking up at night, I do have to point out that a sliver of moon seen in the evening is setting, not rising, and that a bright star in the morning is Venus. There.

And nice paperback treatment by Fulcrum Publishing. I like the French fold cover leafs. Very classy. But enough with the deckle edges! -Mark Bailey

View all my reviews

About Torrey House Press

Torrey House Press is an independent nonprofit publisher promoting environmental conservation through literature.   We believe that culture is changed through conversation and that lively contemporary literature is the cutting edge of social change. By building and engaging community in the conversation of conservation, we make our contribution to, as Wallace Stegner hoped for, a “society to match the scenery." THP books are distributed by Consortium Books Sales and Distribution, a subsidiary of Ingram Content Group.
This entry was posted in Book Review, Environment, Nature Writing, Suggested Reading, West, Western Lit. Bookmark the permalink.

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