One Woman’s Struggle Against Nature & Age

Author: Marianne C. Bohr

Marianne Bohr has always been consumed by proving herself. Retirement is no different. Both Marianne and her husband, Joe, have always sought adventure, travel, and pushing their bodies to the limit and reveling in nature and the human determination to explore it, to feel strength and a bodily connection. When they chose the world’s most difficult trail, the famed GR 20 in Corsica that covers 124 miles of rough terrain, including sharp ascents and descents, remote mountain passes, and a surprising number of free-range pigs, Marianne started to worry. At sixty, could she do this? Could she still be the person she was in her heart?

When Joe started the couple on months of preparation to scale mountains, carry packs, and walk for tens of miles a day under a blistering Corsican sun, Marianne’s worries increased as her body rebelled, as her joints puffed and swelled. Enter her diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. But she would not let her body fail her. She would prove herself, by herself, on this trail.

What emerges is a complicated and beautiful story about accepting help, about aging, about strength and adventure, about the austere beauty of relentless nature, about travel and friends made along the way, about connections, and about acceptance. In this memoir, Marianne opens herself to readers, sharing the triumphs and disasters of a lifetime of always being asked to be too much, to do too much, to struggle to prove herself. What develops is a tantalizing adventure with lots of highs and lows, some beautiful vistas that make us athlete wanna-bes get off the couch and start training, and a love story. Marianne and Joe are high school sweethearts and their love and connection here, imperfect at times, is utterly beautiful and gives hope to us all. We should continue to strive and just as we accept our own body’s limitations, we can still grow and explore and be happy with good enough, with being allowed to explore at our own pace and take life one day, one trail, at a time.

Hiiker paul, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The Twenty is half diary, half love note from the author to herself and to us, the readers. As a woman in her mid-thirties now, I am just now discovering that life is not 100% mental. There is joy and beauty in exploring the body and what it can do, the pure physicality of challenge and journey. As such, Marianne’s struggles resonated with me, especially as I am finding that already, things that came to me effortlessly in my 20s are hard won now.

Marianne also captures the joy of travel, of opening yourself to different cultures and people as well as experiencing the sheer joy of the remote place in the world – of Chestnut forests and granite mountains, of conquering screes, seeing beautiful salamanders in primordial forests, escaping fierce mountain storms, and the simple joys of hard-boiled eggs and salt. What emerges is a tale that oscillates between pure adrenalin, despair, and joy – a story of life. The aches and pains are real, the memories of childhood failure and forced responsibility add depth to Marianne’s (and therefore our own) self-imposed stigmas and challenges. It’s brutal at times, heartwarming at others, and always entertaining. I want to take up hiking now, and I also want to forgive myself for the fact that my best, my 100%, isn’t what I want it to be.

At times I was celebrating while reading The Twenty, at other times I wanted to cry along with Marianne. I highly recommend this book to anyone with a taste for travel, concerns about aging and maintaining independence, and anyone who likes a forthright, open-hearted memoir. I’ve already bought Marianne’s first memoir, Gap Girl, and can’t wait to pick-up with her travels and trials again.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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