Full Title & Author:
Called Again: A Story of Love and Triumph
Written By: Jennifer Pharr Davis
How I Came Across This Book:
I have known about this book for several years. I had previously read Becoming Odyssa: Adventures On The Appalachian Trail by Jennifer before my hike of the Appalachian Trail. I had also read Brew Davis’ (Jennifer’s husband) book 46 Days: Keeping Up With Jennifer Pharr Davis on the Appalachian Trail before my hike. However, for some reason I never read Called Again which takes place after Odyssa and along with 46 Days.
When my husband reached out to Jennifer (who I will admiringly refer to Jen at this point) to chat it up with her on a live cast, I geeked out. I have followed Jen on social media for a few years but was then also reminded of how this woman had greatly inspired me to get out on the AT years ago. She has made a name for herself and women athletes setting new records on trails, starting her own business, doing what she can to encourage others to get outside, is a strong advocate for the AT and conservationist. Being a badass and a seemingly very down to earth person, I have always found Jen inspirational in many ways.
As I sat and watched my husband’s published video of his chat with Jen (secretly jealous he got the chance to virtually hang out with an idol of mine) I started to crave the motivation I felt when reading Odyssa. I started to think back to our time on the AT when I got to see both Jen and Brew speak and perform at Trail Days in 2015. It was at this time I remembered I had never read Called Again. Feeling nostalgic for the AT and adventure, I downloaded the book.
My first thoughts on this book were concerned that I wouldn’t remember exactly what was going on since it had been so long since I had read Odyssa however I needed not to worry. Jen has set up this her second book, in a way that readers can enjoy it as a stand-alone book. She does refer to experiences and people discussed in more detail within Odyssa however she also provides enough information for the reader to simply understand a connection to a place, time, or person. Reading Odyssa first will give the Called Again reader more of an understanding of Jen, however simply put, it is not essential to read Odyssa first.
The other initial thought I had going into this book was that it would be solely about Jen’s experience in 2011 of setting the overall fastest supported trail record on the Appalachian Trail. However, Jen gives so much more of herself in this book. The reader receives a fully rounded perspective of the emotional and physical toll of record-setting (which is sometimes hard to read especially when Jen beautifully but disturbingly describes Shin Splints and GI Issues) but most importantly she gives a complete perspective on relationships with family, friends, and strangers along with the personal growth that occurs during such a feat.
It’s hard to do a review section of a book that I found no fault in. I will just be upfront and state I honestly loved it, teared up on several occasions, and felt like Jen was at times peeking into my relationship with my husband, another very determined hiker.
Jen’s writing style takes you there with her on the Appalachian Trail and more deeply, in her personal life. After reading this book, I feel as if I have been having a long conversation with a dear friend. For a person I have only seen from afar and never talked to in person, I feel as if we know each other (I write that trying not to be creepy). I also feel a connection to her husband Brew in many ways; him being the supportive and loving spouse of a very goal-oriented and determined hiker (that, of course, would be Darwin for me).
Jen begins Called Again not too long after her first completed thru-hike of the AT however, she does this via the ending of a romantic relationship that bloomed during the hike. The end of this relationship sets the tone for the book; a book about relationships that long-distance trails and backpacking are only a backdrop to.
Called Again is about much more than trail experiences, although the reader will get plenty of the gory and painful details, they will also get a deeper look into Jen’s life and what it took from her and friends, family, and husband to set an FKT (Fastest Known Time) on the Appalachian Trail. For those who think this will be a quick read at face value your going to be disappointed. Jen is literally an open book into how the trail is simply a place to escape and challenge oneself. The main meat of this book is again a focus on the people who hike with her and support her down that same path.
I feel like this book fell into my lap at the time I most needed it. If I would have read this book in 2015 before the AT, before Darwin was hiking more long-distance trails solo, before my solo travels, I don’t think this book would have resonated with me the same way.
On a personal level, I was greatly touched by Jen’s honesty and humor and not in the way I thought I would be. Yes, I enjoy hiking and reading about badass women doing badass things especially when it comes to hiking, but I was more touched by her descriptions of the relationship with her husband.
I was also deeply moved by Jen’s self-awareness when she was being a so-called “diva” to her husband and her friends, her awareness of her needs versus her wants, the physical pain of the hike, and the mental pain of knowing life was happening around her while she trudged on the same trail for hours, days, and weeks. A lot of her thoughts I found extremely relatable and in regards to what she was doing, understandable.
Overall, this book is beautifully written providing a look into what it takes to set a trail record physically, but mostly focusing on what is often not discussed, the supportive people surrounding the record-setter. I found Called Again to speak directly to my heart and to my marriage and enjoyed the humor Jen sprinkles over all of it.
“Love is an unending trail; and more often than not, it will not be pretty. It will be dirty and sticky, and it may even cause a rash (hopefully one that will go away with time or a prescription).”
– Jennifer Pharr Davis, Called Again: A Story of Love and Triumph
If you want to learn more about Jennifer Pharr Davis, check out her website https://jenniferpharrdavis.com
Check out this and other books by Jennifer via this link https://jenniferpharrdavis.com/store or check out your local library!
Here are some other book reviews I’ve done:
The Dirtbag’s Guide to Life – Review