The Canoeist: A Memoir

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9780971897472: The Canoeist: A Memoir

An ardent canoeist for more than forty-five years, John Manuel was first introduced to the solace, natural wonder and exhilaration of canoeing while growing up on the Chagrin River in Ohio, paddling an old Grumman canoe under the scrutiny of his father. Decades later, as he watches his elderly dad succumb to cancer, Manuel recalls this initiation into a lifetime of canoeing with both fondness and confusion. What was the allure of rivers? Was it the challenge of rapids, the natural beauty his father had known? Or was it the need to pursue his own life, to escape from home and family expectations?

At times rollicking and playful as the rapids it portrays, The Canoeist also possesses a rare emotional depth. Manuel gives us a vivid picture of his own human experience of falling in love, its elation and heart-rending turns; the intimate connection among paddling friends; the fight to save the natural places he reveres; the frustration and joy of bringing children into the canoeing life. Chapters named for a dozen eastern rivers carry the reader from such historic events as the fire on the Cuyahoga River and anti-Nixon demonstrations in Washington D.C. to the wild and some times dangerous watersheds of Manuel’s life. In part an ode to rivers, The Canoeist also affirms the vital importance of family and friends, and reveals a portrait of America in changing times.

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About the Author:

John Manuel is the author of The Natural Traveler Along North Carolina's Coast. His articles have appeared in publications such as Audubon, Backpacker, and Canoe & Kayak. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

From Publishers Weekly:

From the Chagrin in Ohio to the Chattooga in North Carolina to the Pigeon in Tennessee, Manuel (The Natural Traveler Along North Carolina's Coast) recalls trips along waterways both big and small. But one canoe ride soon blends into another (which then quickly gives way to another), and though each has a special place in Manuel's heart, the feeling for the reader is akin to bobbing aimlessly in a lukewarm stream of Manuel's nostalgia. He juxtaposes his canoe trips with ruminations on family in particular and nature in general, but the intent of these passages is not entirely clear; the book begins with Manuel visiting his dying father, for example, and though he references their troubled relationship, their mutual disappointment is never satisfactorily addressed. Manuel's explored raging rivers, but he's less adept at traversing the still water of his inner life, making for a tepid reading experience.
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