In the basement of The Strand, my favorite used book store in New York City, there is a maze of shelves dedicated to advanced review copies (ARCs). For those unfamiliar with the way the publishing industry works, ARCs are the uncorrected proofs of books that are about to be released. Publishers send these unfinished manuscripts to authors for blurbs and critics for review. Since The Strand is located in the publishing capital of the world, it receives thousands of ARCs. And while most are stamped “Not For Sale,” the store sells them to help build buzz about upcoming tomes.
Whenever I’m in the city, I always make it a point to visit this section to discover some new writers. Authors and publishers will occasionally send me ARCs as well, in the hopes that I’ll write a review or perhaps share a positive comment on social media. When I have the time and inclination, I’m always happy to do so.
I mention this because there’s a wonderful book by a brand new author hitting store shelves today.
Portland indie press Future Tense Books is launching a line called Instant Future eBooks, and its debut title is “Altitude Sickness” by Litsa Dremousis. The book, which is available on Amazon, tells the story of how the author dealt with the death of her best friend (and on-again-off-again boyfriend of 20 years). More than just a treatise on grieving, “Altitude Sickness” delves into the physical and emotional consequences of mountain climbing, and how society’s attitude toward this activity needs to change.
M and I read an ARC of the book earlier this month. Reading together is one of my greatest joys. Even though he’s deaf, his hearing aids and my lower-timbered voice work well enough together to allow me to read to him. So on our fifth wedding anniversary, we took a drive and I shared Litsa’s tale of love and loss.
This might seem like an odd choice of reading material for a romantic night out on the town, but it was actually quite fitting. We’ve been friends with Litsa for many years, and have a boundless adoration for her. Also, we became aware of her best friend’s mountain climbing accident while on our honeymoon, so the pain of his death and the joy at our pairing will always be intertwined.
I loved this book’s wit and wisdom. While Litsa plumbs the abyss of her grief, she somehow manages to return to the surface to breathe and love and share the knowledge she gained from all that suffering. Her goal is not to memorialize the man she lost, but to remember; not to preach, but to enlighten.
We laughed while reading numerous chapters — the Courtney Love and Clif bar ones were my particular favorites — then discussed the book’s many scientific revelations. Although neither of us are mountain climbers, M and I came away from this reading with a better understanding of the sport and its participants. I’ll also admit to breaking down in tears at the end. Even though I knew what was coming, it was incredibly difficult to read that last line.
So, if you’re looking for something fascinating to read, I strongly recommend checking out “Altitude Sickness.” You won’t regret it.