The Boy Between: A Gripping Story About Depression

There is a scourge that does not discriminate, regardless of gender, race, nationality, or sexuality. It often finds its way to victims through social media. And it does not watch a clock–it hits some people during the prime of life.

Depression tightens its grip on Josh Hartley when he goes away to England’s Southhampton University. He watches fellow students have the time of their lives, but for him, university life heightens the loneliness and despair he has experienced for years.

In The Boy Between: A Mother and Son’s Journey From a World Gone Grey, English novelist Amanda Prowse describes her struggle to lift her son from the depths of depression. She gains new hope as he heads off to university.

In alternating chapters, mother and son describe the journey. Josh’s narrative is especially powerful as he buries his shame under the covers of his bed. How do you come clean that you are not perfect? That you failed in college? Or, he asks himself, is it easier to check yourself out? For Josh, the book was a way to open the mental health conversation, especially for boys and men, with a message. He encourages males to say “I cry,” or “I suffer” and admit, “I need help.”

He is thankful he has a loving family to support him, but he and his mother now know those who have depression must lead their fight to get better. He pleads that other sufferers hang in there. “You are not alone.”

This is a book for the mentally ill, but also for those who want to understand an illness that affects so many. It holds a message of hope. It offers education through a story that relates the pitfalls of ignorance, like when someone tells a suffering youth to “Man up.”

As a sufferer of anxiety and depression as long as I can remember, I have found solace and much more on the long-distance trails of Europe. Like Josh, I told my story in a book (Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows), which was cathartic for me. I am most touched when readers write that my story helped them with their own struggles. Like Josh writes, we are all in this together.

Alex Woods: A Coming-of-Age Story Rooted in Friendship

A meteorite strikes, changing lives. A mother tells the future. A boy battles seizures. An old curmudgeon walks a dog named after Kurt Vonnegut. Mix in some marijuana, a fatal diagnosis, an unlikely friendship, and a journey borne out of love.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods is a coming-of-age story that is one of my favorite books of 2020. In his debut novel, Gavin Extence tells the story from a boy’s point of view as the bookish, bullied 10-year-old forges a seven-year friendship that leads him to incidents he never would have imagined. Extence creates a boy’s voice that reminds me of Holden Caulfield from J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Not as dark, but equally observant of the world and the people around him. Laughs and tears guaranteed.

Costa Rica: Explorer Searches Jungle for His Lost Son

“In the predawn hours of July 10, 2014, the son of legendary Alaskan explorer Roman Dial walked alone into the untracked rain forest of Costa Rica’s remote Pacific Coast. “I’m planning on doing 4 days in the jungle,” he wrote his father before leaving, “it should be difficult to get lost forever.” Then he vanished… (From the book cover)

Roman Dial raised his son Cody to be a fearless adventurer, but when the 27-year-old’s heart led to a solo venture in a remote Costa Rican jungle, his father felt responsible. Cody hadn’t checked in for days, then weeks, then months. Was he lost? Had he been murdered? Had he been bitten by a poisonous snake? Was he being held captive?

In Costa Rica, Dial pleads for help from local and national authorities as well as American and Alaskan officials. He and friends comb the jungle for clues, finding deadly snakes as they blazed their way. He investigates Cody’s last hours and days before his disappearance. Meanwhile, he imagines that his son will walk out of the rain forest.

In The Adventurer’s Son, author Roman Dial recounts Cody’s upbringing and their journeys together in Alaska, Borneo and Bhutan. His absorbing narrative of the Costa Rican search will keep you on edge until the moving conclusion.

Books: Find Your Next Page Turner

Here are links to book reviews I have published:

The Boy Between, Josiah Hartley and Amanda Prowse

The Universe Versus Alex Woods, Gavin Extence

An Adventurer’s Son, Roman Dial

Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century, Jessica Bruder

Gillybean in China, Gill Puckridge

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

Escape From the Ordinary, Julie Bradley

The Trail Provides: A Boy’s Memoir of Thru-Hiking the PCT, David Smart

Narcissus and Goldmund, Hermann Hesse

Henry David Thoreau: A Life, Laura Dassow Walls

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World, Hans Rosling

How to Practice, Dalai Lama

Opiod, Indiana, Brian Allen Carr

Land of Lost Borders, Kate Harris

Trespassing Across America, Ken Ilgunas

Walden, Henry David Thoreau

The Accidental President, A.J. Baime

The Salt Path, Raynor Winn

Way Out There, J. Robert Harris

Beyond Religion, Dalai Lama

Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse

Big Little Man, Alex Tizon

Walden on Wheels, Ken Ilgunas

Beyond the Pale, Ken Grossman

On the Shortness of Life, Seneca

The Geography of Bliss, Eric Weiner

How Not to Get Married, George Mahood

If Cats Disappeared from the World, Genki Kawamura

Sedona Hiking Guide, Greg Stevenson

The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz