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Let Them Paddle: Coming of Age on the Water Paperback – April 3, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Alan S. Kesselheim has worked as a freelance writer for 30 years. He is the author of 10 books and hundreds of magazine articles in a handful of publications, including Canoe and Kayak Magazine. In addition to his writing work, Kesselheim has taught writing workshops throughout North America and teaches occasional classes at Montana State University. He is best known for his exploits as a wilderness adventurer and canoeist and is a veteran of many extended expeditions, including two year-long canoe journeys across Canada. Kesselheim has incorporated his three children into his wilderness adventure lifestyle and has every expectation that they will carry on the tradition. He lives in Bozeman, Montana, with his wife and children.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing (April 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555913512
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555913519
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,396,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By spottedtail on May 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
Let Them Paddle: Coming of Age on the Water, by Alan S. Kesselheim, paperback, 336 pages, Fulcrum Publishing, $19.95, is part coming-of-age story, part adventure story, part ecology primer, part family history, richly seasoned with personal philosophy. A husband and wife conceive their first child while on a cross-continental wilderness canoe trip across Canada. Their two subsequent children likewise accompany them in utero on lengthy river trips.

When each child comes into their early teens, the family takes a paddling trip to that child's river of record. The story starts on the Kazan, a 550 mile long river interspersed with large lakes, that flows into Hudson Bay. The youngest member of the expedition is only nine years old. They deal with rapids, headwinds, weather, insects, polar bears, their own doubts and fears, and more. It makes a riveting adventure story.
"We are in deep, hundreds of miles from anywhere civilized, having scratched our way across trackless space. We are utterly alone, and feel that way. Isolation is too small a word for this. An unequivocal embrace of humility is the only possible response."

River number two is the Yellowstone. It's not the same as when Lewis and Clark came through. In spite of that I find myself considering paddling it myself.
They go swimming. "The river mauls us, pulls us under, slaps water in our faces. On top of the waves, we catch glimpses of each other, grin like fools. Then we slide into the trough and disappear. The bulges of boulders go under us, sometimes bumping our butts. The current momentarily keeps us in the backwash of holes, twisting and pulling. Through with the thrill ride, we stroke hard to regain the boats.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mary Rehwald on February 15, 2013
Format: Paperback
Alan Kesselheim has the three qualifications of a great writer: crisp, gorgeous, authentic. Here is storytelling at its best - told in a voice which is warm, kind, and always in focus. His wordsmithing is breathtaking in its simplicity. I was deeply moved many times by his insights. His life experience gives the word "authentic" a new level of meaning, the expression "coming of age" a new definition.
I would recommend this book to anyone whether they have been near a canoe or not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael E. Grijalva on October 9, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alan Kesselheim is a great author, with the skill to make each paragraph make an impact on your imagination. The stories he tells of river adventures with his wife and children make all other forms of vacation seem weak. Having raised my kids, and now grandkids, on river trips, I can relate to all his tales and am looking for more of his books.
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Format: Paperback
In middle age the notion of doing what you love and then figuring out how to make a living at it gets ever more attractive. I cringe at the notion of my old business buddies calling and asking how my new publishing biz is going. They listen politely and if feeling dismissive say it sounds more like an expensive hobby and if expansive that it must be a labor of love. It is about the land for me, and I do love it. And I do intend to make it into a business.

Al Kesselheim is making a living as an avid outdoorsman, as in look it up in the dictionary and it says "see Kesselheim." He met and fell in love with his wife in the backcountry of southern Utah. She may be even more intense about living in natural places than he is. They were into big expeditions, including two year long canoe trips in Canada. They bought a Pakboat canoe, folded it up, packed their gear, hired a float plane, and in they went. Along the way, after numerous heartbreaking failed pregnancies, all three of their children ended up on their first canoe trips, in the womb. His wife, Marypat Zitzer, knows that it is not good science to speculate, but the fact that she was out in her beloved wilds when she first was able to take a pregnancy to term she thought was not a coincidence.

As a writer, Kesselheim makes hay out of his experiences in this memoir. I hope he is still able to make a living this way. As a close observer, as good writers are, he more deeply enjoyed the growth of his kids than many of us might do. The backbone of the book is three river trips with his young adult kids on the rivers they first ran in Mom. The places and people are observed, the wildness indulged, and the kids grow up natural citizens of their environment.
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