In Cooper’s memoir, she contextualizes her own formative moments.

In the preface, Cooper writes, “This memoir is not a chronology of my life or experiences. It is an assortment of my understanding of some of my life experiences.”

Each chapter begins like a diary entry, complete with the date and probing questions about life, love, God, and the meaning of existence. “What is freedom, really?” Cooper wonders. “I have come to understand that freedom is a journey into and beyond the self.”

So, too, does this book move into and beyond the self. The author chronicles her childhood, detailing abuse by her domineering, sometimes-violent father. She describes traveling to Europe alone and joining the National Guard. She outlines her complicated relationship to the Catholic Church, which mirrors the patriarchal hierarchy she sees in her home, yet she ultimately finds God again and devotes herself more completely to religion.

Cooper also describes the evolution of her relationship to running, which serves as both a coping mechanism and metaphor for her approach toward life: “Along the way, I learned how to run my own race,” Cooper writes. “It was about me alone and no one else….It did not matter if it was a snail’s pace, what mattered was the run, the progress.”

The diary-esque openings to each chapter outline Cooper’s progress. As she writes, “I am getting to know myself: how I move through the world, what makes me uncomfortable, what makes me feel good.” Such structure also allows the reader to learn alongside her and observe her continual questioning. The overall tone here tends toward self-help as Cooper underscores the ways she has pulled herself out of hardship and kept moving.

A candid, plainspoken account of self-acceptance.

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