Illustrations: 28 b&w images
Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in
Pub Date: 03/01/2017
List Price: $24.95
Part travelogue and part memoir, these coming-of-age essays touch on science, philosophy, and history
Sarah Gorham recounts her childhood education as a rebellious, insecure, angry girl shipped overseas to a tiny international school perched on a mountain shelf in Bernese-Oberland, Switzerland. There, boot camp style, she experienced deprivation, acute embarrassment, and keen educational guidance, all in the name of growing up. The Swiss landscape influenced her with its paradoxes: unforgiving slopes and peaks; government-controlled hills and valleys-so, too, the languages she's obliged to learn: one ruffian, the other militaristic.
Though her stay lasted a mere two years, her time there was so crucial in her transition to adulthood that she returns to those years decades later, each and every night in memory and dream. There are brief forays into the science of surviving an avalanche; Sherlock Holmes's faked demise at the Reichenbach Falls; the origins of meringue; and the history of homesickness and its spiritual twin, Sehnsucht. In her travels Gorham tracks an adolescent experience both agonizingly familiar and curiously exotic.
From the get-go, the wonderful Alpine Apprentice overlays the incantatory, disquieting logic of dream onto the concrete, the actual, the experientially wakeful. The effect is immediately hypnotic and profoundly affecting. It's as if Gorham is chasing down her researched facts in order to desperately make the shards of her experience gel. And while the research, of course, does this, I adore this other level at which it operates-as testament to the narrator's infectious desire to make sense of one's life. This is no ordinary memoir, but memoir with its edges rubbed soft, like paper aching to return to the sort of tree-state it hardly remembers, but harbors like a fetish.
—Matthew Gavin Frank, author of The Mad Feast and Preparing the Ghost
—Mary Cappello, author of Life Breaks In: A Mood Almanack
—Bill Roorbach, author of Life Among Giants and The Remedy for Love
—Michele Morano, author of Grammar Lessons: Translating a Life in Spain
—Tony Hoagland, author of Real Sofistikashun: Essays on Poetry and Craft
—Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
—Renée E. D’Aoust, Fourth Genre
PEN Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, PEN American Center