Mush: From Sled Dogs to Celiac, the Scenic Detour of my Life is the debut memoir by local author Tara Caimi. It’s a coming of age story, but not a first blush, adolescent identity crisis type of tale. Rather, in Caimi’s case, it is a deeper-hued variety that knocks her off balance long after the successful milestones of adulthood.
The author skillfully takes a tour through the landscape and landmines of early adulthood. Many people will recognize Caimi’s struggles in negotiating new romances and settling for a job that doesn’t really use her talents. Those living in Happy Valley will enjoy the local references, to the downtown haunts that she frequents and to Accuweather where Caimi works as a graphic designer.
I believe there is often a second “coming of age” for women, and Mush illustrates that transition well. Somewhere in her late 20’s or early 30’s, a woman who delays marriage, for whatever reason, must navigate the prescribed order of business. She’s expected to get a good job, find a suitable mate, and start having babies. And no foolin’ around this time! But, what if this equation for happiness doesn’t exactly sit well?
Caimi instead pieces together a life of her own design. She takes a scenic detour to Park City, Utah with her boyfriend, who dreams of starting a dog-sled touring company. While there, she has a number of misadventures, including finding and losing work, and babysitting for newborn huskies all while sitting on the uncomfortable edge of Mormon country and dealing with unexplained stomachaches. These experiences build to a crescendo. I rooted for her to follow the trail of her miserable ailments to a restoration of health and well being, so that she could ultimately create a life of her own making.
The beauty of this memoir is Caimi's deft handling of it, which is both poetic and at times, sardonic. The descriptions of her foray into the medical world are especially noteworthy. She and her doctor eventually unravel the mystery of her condition, Celiac disease. For those unfamiliar, Celiac is a condition where the body mounts an attack against the small intestine when a person eats gluten.
Nearing the final chapter of the book, Caimi describes the new normal that will forever color her life. She writes, “I have celiac disease, I repeated, pulling the notion back by a thread each time it drifted to the edge of acceptance. I wrapped it around my wrist like a childhood birthday balloon, determined not to let it get away. This is my truth. Unbeknownst to anyone, this truth had been with me forever.”
Caimi’s “coming of age” means seeing clearly, and embracing the realities of her life to find some measure of acceptance and peace. Read the book to learn about the new, exciting path she blazes for herself.
Mush: From Sled Dogs to Celiac, the Scenic Detour of my Life by Tara Caimi is published by Plain View Press.
Reviewer Elle Morgan is a writer and retreat director at Half Moon Hollow in Clearfield County.