This nonfiction book’s title, TWO MOUNTAINS: KILIMANJARO TO QUADRIPLEGIC AND BACK, blatantly sets up its narrative construct: the author, S. Michael Scadron, writes in parallel sections about his attempt to trek up Mount Kilimanjaro and his battle to overcome a mysterious paralysis. But the title’s obvious nod to the story’s theme belies the subtle attention to detail and rich emotion that makes this book well worth a read.
The author’s juxtaposition of his two hard journeys not only reveals their similarities and differences, but gives the reader an insight into how the hike up the African mountain later helped him face his worsening condition and its terrifying effects. For example, when he considers returning home from a stay in the hospital, he writes, “I comforted myself with the notion that this was like Kilimanjaro where we spent several days scaling the mountain at 12-13,000 feet before attempting the final ascent to the summit.” Reflections such as this give readers an unhindered view into the writer’s mind—as well as the strength of character and sheer determination that got him through it all.
Indeed, Scadron’s writing is strongest when he considers all he’s been. And though he claims he “may have changed over the years, but that wasn’t something about which [he] was particularly aware,” it’s the author’s self-awareness that the reader notices most of all. He recounts both his travels and travails with honesty (“Were we crazy?”) and humor (“I guess they figured that Americans could not do without their eggs for breakfast, not even for one week.”). He masterfully allows his personality to fuel his story, which helps keeps the plot flowing at a steady pace, with just the right mix of adventure, suspense, and thoughtfulness. The photos interspersed throughout the pages further draw readers in, leaving them wanting to know even more about Scadron’s progress today.
Though TWO MOUNTAINS is largely the story of one individual’s experience, readers come away from the book feeling changed, too: more determined, more compassionate, more aware. Throughout his account, Scadron briefly touches on larger social concerns, recounting how others viewed him differently after his illness and new issues he learned to cope with. And in one simple sentence, he poignantly brings to the forefront a question felt by many people who live with a disability: “Why should I have to apologize for my condition?”
Readers will be moved by the author’s incredible personal triumph, and the hope that serves as the heart of this autobiographical story.
~Christina Doka for IndieReader