3 out of 4 stars
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Sometimes people have invisible pain and go through things that nobody else can see. We can choose to let our pain hinder us, or we can push forward while acknowledging them; this is the overarching lesson of Kira’s story in The Invisible Hiker. Kira gets inspiration from her father to hike the JMT (John Muir Trail) and immediately informs him of her plan. Owing to a budding relationship, she also invites Melissa, her cousin. Just before the hike, Kira suffers from a stomach parasite in Guatemala, which exacerbates her already bad IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
Despite the bad news, Kira decides to move ahead with the hike. She thinks that being out in nature will cure her of the IBS. What she soon finds out is how wrong she is! While on the hike, Kira gets so many IBS flare-ups that cause her intense abdominal pain, make her take countless toilet breaks, and ruin her mood. Kira soon starts to think that she might not be able to make it to the end of the trail. Does she have what it takes to surmount her issues and achieve her goal of finishing the hike?
My favorite part of this book is that Kira Harland, the author, does not include any false motivation. She does not play the condescending heroine that grits her teeth to “just do it.” Kira struggles with IBS and constant worry over having to quit what she wanted to achieve; she tries to savor each moment despite her pain. I loved that Kira showed that it's okay to be human. I appreciated the author’s easygoing tone because it was void of false bravado and toxic positivity. Readers who want a relatable read will enjoy this aspect of The Invisible Hiker. Readers who enjoy tales of real-life adventures will like this book as well.
The author wrote in journal entries. But instead of her writing seeming overly personal and like actual journal entries, she used a first-person narrative style and occasional dialogue. I appreciated this expert editing decision because it allows readers to experience the hike more vividly without sifting through what would have been a personal diary that may not have made much of an impact. The dialogues allowed me to envision scenes between Kira, Melissa, John, and other characters without any hassle. There was no mind-blowing thrill, but some scenes left my heart in my mouth, especially where John slips and almost drowns!
I enjoyed the easy flow of this book and the profound lesson of living in the moment despite any pain or discomfort. But I must say that the book tended to drone on. The hikers did not do many memorable things, nor were they in intense danger that would have had me glued to the book. Instead, Kira narrated a lot of her IBS episodes. Consequently, she explicitly narrated scenes of herself pooping, which I considered too much information. While pooping is a natural phenomenon, I soon got bored with having to read about it so many times. John and Melissa also have their journal entries, but they have no distinct voices. Because of the book’s repetitiveness in this regard and the lack of thrill, I have to rate it 3 out of 4. I removed no other stars because everything else is on point.
The Invisible Hiker
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