Chasing Rivers by Tamar Glouberman

I enjoy adventure travel and admire others who do the same, then write about it, particularly those who do it well. Author Tamar Glouberman is one of these people. Chasing Rivers: A Whitewater Life is her personal story, a memoir. Being on the water has been, for the most part, this adventurer-author’s natural environment. What I’d call internal geography – some individuals simply belong in a specific environment – they fit.

This, from the publisher:

“A raw and honest work from a talented new voice in adventure writing, Tamar’s memoir is a page-turner, transporting readers through wild rapids and breathtaking canyons, navigating eddies and currents, as she learns from the river that finding self-forgiveness might be the most hard-to-reach destination of all.”

One of the things I find most impressive about Glouberman’s recounting of her adventures on whitewater is the detail with which she does so. If you’ve experienced river rapids, you know it’s not a place to jot notes in a journal while it’s happening. It’s raw, intensely immediate, adrenaline-fuelled, loosely controlled chaos. Which makes the reader recognize the acute depth of Glouberman’s recollection, a near-photographic memory of events. It’s as though we’re in each boat with fellow paddlers and our guide, our narrator and author. That sense of immersion I seek in good contemporary travel writing, and Glouberman delivers.

Again, from the publisher:

“When Tamar Glouberman was in her twenties and thirties, rivers were flowing through every aspect of her life. Whitewater and the paddling community bring excitement, friendships, lovers and a connection to the natural world as she traverses the map in search of her next adventure. As a short woman who nearly failed high-school gym, Glouberman does not fit the stereotype of a kayaker or raft guide and must prove herself time and again. Yet she feels more at home on water than land.

Driven to guide increasingly dangerous rivers, Tamar overcomes her self-doubts and challenges both on and off the water, using a combination of grit and wit. But when a rafting trip ends in a fatal accident, she is consumed by guilt and exiles herself from the rivers she loves, convinced she can never return. Tamar must eventually decide if being unable to save her passenger’s life means she also must sacrifice her own.”

I’ll go no further, to avoid any spoiler alerts. Think of it as us steering our raft from the churn at a bow in the river, the calm ahead of a maelstrom. But if armchair adventure with a poignant personal story appeals to you as a reader, Tamar Glouberman’s Chasing Rivers will assuredly ferry you through the torrent in a safe and satisfying manner.

Tamar Glouberman has spent much of her life working as an outdoor guide. That career has given her opportunities to work and travel in exotic places such as the Galapagos, Zambia and Peru, but she’s most grateful that it’s allowed her to enjoy many adventures in remote areas of North America, among wild rivers and grizzly bears. When she’s not off exploring the wilderness, she can often be found in Whistler, Montreal or on Vancouver Island. Tamar is a graduate of the Creative Writing MFA program at UBC.

  • Title: Chasing Rivers: A Whitewater Life
  • Author: Tamar Glouberman
  • Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre, 2022
  • ISBN: 9781771623414
  • Pages: 272

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Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of A Season on Vancouver Island, theGone Viking travelogues, andA Perfect Day for a Walk: The History, Cultures, and Communities of Vancouver, on Foot(Arsenal Pulp Press, Fall 2024). Recipient of a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions, Bill’s a frequent presenter and contributor to magazines, universities, podcasts, TV and radio. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land.