cover image In the Shadow of the Mountain: A Memoir of Courage

In the Shadow of the Mountain: A Memoir of Courage

Silvia Vasquez-Lavado. Holt, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-77674-7

As an adult dealing with the trauma of childhood sexual abuse, Vasquez-Lavado looks to the mountains for healing in her triumphant debut memoir. She recounts a trek guiding a group of abuse survivors on a mountain-climbing expedition, finding catharsis together as they share their stories, and immediately afterward setting out to climb Everest. Interspersed with the account of her ascent, chapters cover growing up in an emotionally fraught family in Lima, Peru; being sexually abused for years by a family friend; coming to the U.S. for college; scaling the corporate ladder in Silicon Valley while secretly exploring San Francisco’s queer scene; struggling with alcohol abuse and heartbreak; and finally beginning to confront her buried traumas. Vasquez-Lavado recasts mountaineering, contrary to its macho reputation, as a feminist act: “Everest has many names, but they all mean mother. Sagarmatha—Mother of the Sky; Chomolungma—Mother of the World, [and it] stands witness where our own mothers could not.” She concludes, “We do not conquer Everest, just like we do not conquer trauma” but must yield to the “chasms” it opens to cross. Vasquez-Lavado’s story of struggle and survival is elevated by its faith in the power of women’s solidarity. Fans of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild should take note. Agent: Lara Love, Idea Architects. (Feb.)