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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.