Above Tree Line
by Mary P. Montanye

Wild Ginger Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-988-77039-3.
Reviewed by Khadijah A.
Posted on 07/26/2014

Nonfiction: Memoir

Mary P. Montanye's Above Tree Line tells the story of the author's journey from an insecure little girl to a woman confident in herself and her place in the world. Most of the book focuses on her past as the author seeks to explain her unhealthy relationships, alcoholism, and difficulty in dealing with other people in a healthy, productive way. Throughout her journey, though, she is consistently seeking a wild place in which to find home and herself. She ultimately finds a way to join her yearning for the past and a grandmother who treated her kindly to her desire to live far outside the city limits by purchasing a second home in Poudre Canyon near Fort Collins, Colorado.

I have to admit that I found little connection with Montanye, and therefore had trouble sympathizing with the way she saw her life and the people in it. I felt that she didn't devote enough time to what made her whole again, instead of dwelling on the past and what she thought had caused her problems. An example of this is her relationship with her second husband. Throughout the book he comes off as a selfish, self-centered, cold person, and yet she stresses their deep love and connection to one another. When the two of them are finally living in their cabin in Poudre Valley, she spends most of a chapter saying how annoyed she is with him, and then devotes a couple of pages to how much better their relationship becomes after they make the move. There is no clear path or explanation for the changes that she rejoices in. I found this to be true with other areas of her life as well, including the idea that she found healing in coming closer to nature. I wish that more time had been spent on that healing, on her journey upwards from the point where she felt she had hit rock bottom, as well as on developing the characters of the people in her life.

That said, the book is well written and interesting, and Montanye proves her courage in sharing such an intimate story with others. Living the story is difficult enough, but reliving it and telling is even more difficult. I am sure that many readers will see themselves in parts of the author's narrative, and may even be encouraged to find healing for themselves, in whatever way they are able.

Mary Montanye, her husband George, and two rescue Cockers, Pepper and Chrissy, split their time between the foothills of Colorado and the central Oregon Coast. In both places, Mary writes and coaches. Visit her website.

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