Pedaling out of the Dark

Non-Fiction - Autobiography
188 Pages
Reviewed on 03/04/2017
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Author Biography

After graduating with highest honors from Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts in 2000, with a B.S. in biology and chemistry-geology, Karen Hurley went on to get her M.S in marine science from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2002. In 2017, she published her autobiography, Pedaling out of the Dark, chronicling her lifelong experience with bipolar disorder as well as a 3,400-mile bicycle ride across the United States. In her free time, Karen enjoys biking, reading, watching movies, and maintaining her fish tank. She currently works at Harvard University and lives in Whitman, Massachusetts with her dog, Tucumcari.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Pedaling Out of the Dark is a non-fiction autobiography written by Karen Hurley. Hurley's early life as a young child was pretty idyllic. She was popular in school and even had a boyfriend in kindergarten. Her brother, who was two years her senior, had no qualms about her tagging along with him and his friends. Hurley was a rough and tumble child who loved the outdoors, collected action figures and fell in love with biking when her parents gave her a bicycle for Christmas when she was eight years old. Things changed, however, and quickly, just a few years later. Suddenly, she had no interest in doing anything, in participating in the sports and athletic games she always loved, in hanging out with her best friend. All she wanted to do was sit in her rocking chair and listen to music. She felt as if a wall was slowly being erected between herself and the rest of the world, and she wasn't really all that concerned about it -- she felt too numb, too drained and entirely too apathetic to care. Her life became a series of depressive episodes punctuated with glorious periods of elation, energy, and feeling as though she could master challenges she put her mind to. One such challenge was to bike across the United States. It was, in many respects, a terrifying thing to consider when she was feeling depressed, but she was determined to achieve her childhood dream of experiencing grand adventures. Biking across the country was such an adventure, and she was alternately thrilled and terrified by the concept, but she knew she could, and would, do it.

Karen Hurley's non-fiction autobiography, Pedaling Out of the Dark, alternately cycles the reader through the story of her life with undiagnosed bipolar disorder and her experiences, challenges and adventures while biking across the United States with CrossRoads Cycling Adventures. As I read this inspiring, personable and well-written memoir, I couldn't help but be impressed by the author's resilience, courage, determination and drive. While battling depression, she accomplished so much so early in her life, excelling in academics and pushing herself to the limits in track and bicycling. Her story is an important one, and I'm so thrilled she decided to share it with others. I loved following her cycling story as she gamely pushed herself on the trip, limiting or even eliminating rest stops in order to keep up with the other riders, and could feel her mixture of pride and exhaustion as she conquered each of the seven Century (100 mile) cycling days and even added on an eighth. Her road stories are the stuff of first-rate travel writing, and her candor about life with bipolar disorder, both before and after she began medication, helped me to understand so much more about that disorder and the challenges faced by those whose lives are defined by fearing depression and longing for the happiness only found in the manic phase. Pedaling Out of the Dark is an extraordinarily good read, and I most highly recommend it.

Tracy A. Fischer

In an interesting and enlightening new book by author and autobiographer Karen Hurley, Pedaling Out of the Dark is a story that readers will find themselves engrossed in from the very first page all the way through until the very end. The author bravely and honestly recounts her history as a person who has dealt with bipolar disorder from childhood. From the lows of depression to the joy of the highs of mania, Karen Hurley shares many of her experiences with candor and skill. Culminating in the life changing 3,400 mile bicycle trip across America that she took after she was diagnosed, this book, while short, is complete in its telling of Karen's tale.

I very much enjoyed Pedaling Out of the Dark. Author Karen Hurley has done a wonderful job in telling her true story, sharing sensitively all that she has been through in dealing with her mental health issues. Many readers who have never experienced depression or mania, or have not had a loved one who has experienced these, will learn a great deal about the feelings and emotions that surround these emotions and experiences. Any reader who enjoys a good autobiography, who has an interest in mental health issues, especially bipolar disorder, or who has an interest in biking across the country, should absolutely read this book. I am pleased to be able to recommend Pedaling Out of the Dark, and I certainly hope that author Karen Hurley will continue with her writing pursuits. I, for one, would be very interested in reading more from this intriguing author in the future!

Ruffina Oserio

Pedaling Out of the Dark by Karen Hurley is an inspirational and compelling memoir of a young woman and her history with bipolar disorder, a young, intelligent girl who loved books and who had a great sense of adventure. In fact she confesses: “I was a nice kid and generally well behaved, with one exception. I was a thief. If I wanted something, I took it.” Meet her and find out what it is like to live with this disorder, listen to her talk about her depression, her flights from reality, her incredible 3,400-mile bicycle ride across the US, and her secret for survival and hope. This is an engaging story that will resonate with many readers.

The opening lines of this beautifully written memoir are poignantly painful and they set the tone that defines the entire narrative: “I remember being normal. I was normal until I was nine, maybe ten years old.” The author’s voice is compelling and it comes across with startling honestly. The story feels very real and the author has the gift of drawing readers into her life and world view through the masterful use of the first person narrative. Readers will enjoy the protagonist whose voice is warm and clear. Pedaling Out of the Dark could have been a sad story except for the fact that the protagonist has claimed her power to determine how her life ends. Karen Hurley’s writing will encourage and communicate hope to people who are discouraged or almost giving up hope because of their medical condition. It clearly shows that one can live with a handicap and even transform it into a tool for personal development.