Review: Mush: from sled dogs to celiac, the scenic detour of my life by Tara Caimi

mush cover girl sitting dog sleds in background“All this time,” Tara Caimi wrote,” I’d been poisoning myself with the food I loved so much—the food I ate, not only for comfort but in order to stay alive. By trying to live just like everyone else, I had, in fact, been killing myself.”

Caimi suffered from awful stomachaches from as far back as she could remember, and she believed her adolescent anxiety caused them to intensify. But the occasional pain didn’t stop her from overeating. Whenever she had the chance, she gorged on comfort foods at her Grammie’s house and family dinners out. She always considered herself a champion eater. It wasn’t until she was 30 that she discovered something was really wrong.

In her first memoir, Mush: from sled dogs to celiac, the scenic detour of my life, (Plain View Press, 2015), 28-year-old Caimi followed her new boyfriend Nick to Utah where he could live out his dream of starting his own dog-sledding racing business. She worked for a realtor in Park City while bonding with their sled dog family and trying to figure out her own dreams. With Nick, she experienced her first “adulthood relationship” and learned through “calm and respectful…mature communication.” She was attracted to his drive for adventure. When Nick confessed that he dabbled in “adult entertainment” to earn more money to move to Utah, he explained to Caimi that she should “bend” a little bit in her values because it was only temporary. “I now knew exactly what I’d been missing by not dating all those years during high school—the ability to compromise my values for the benefit of a relationship.” And so she acquiesced, without realizing the problems she was about to encounter.

Upon reaching their destination, Caimi’s exquisite descriptions of Utah seem to insinuate trepidation. “The sky—a color so sharp it could sting your eyes if you stared at it too long. To me, [the mountains] were intimidating. Magnificent and humbling giants with razor sharp edges.” Her imagery hints at the fact that Utah may not become her permanent home. After a series of stressful events from losing her job to Nick’s ongoing website dealings, her accelerated anxiety seemed to increase her stomachaches.

Her view of Utah, while poetically portrayed, alludes to limitation. She observed, “In central Pennsylvania, the sun began its hibernation as early as October. But here in Park City, sunshine dominated the sky upwards of 225 days per year. One thing I knew. Park City sparkled in winter like a man-made diamond—just a little too flawless to feel completely authentic.”

Caimi’s narrative unearths her self-discovery as she delves deep into her psyche, and she emerges with a better understanding about herself. Her complex relationship with her parents and her adoration for her Grammie paint pictures in the reader’s mind of her childhood and her transition into adulthood. Caimi perseveres through her pain, makes some brave decisions, and finally recognizes her dream.

Mush is not just a story about a disease; it’s a book about finding one’s passion and overcoming the obstacles along the way. Caimi’s memoir is about a time in her life when she fell in love, took chances, and learned about the dog-sledding business, as well as bringing awareness to celiac disease. She includes a personal note and celiac resources following the memoir.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Angela L. Eckhart, Reviews Editor

Angela earned her master of arts degree in creative writing from Wilkes University under the tutelage of Kaylie Jones and John Bowers. She lives below Blue Mountain in a log home with her husband and three cats, and she works in a delightfully quiet office. In her spare time, she indulges in books, films, ice cream, and making art.

[Angela previously served as a reviewer for Hippocampus for a number of years before moving into the editor role.]

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