Tag Archives: Youth

Book Review: Cabin Pressure by Josh Wolk (4/5). Reminder that being a grown-up is awesome.

6 May

As a kid, I went to sleep-away camp a few times. Northern Michigan is filled with wonderful week-long camps for sports, music, whatever you want to explore. I remember orchestra camp in particular. Probably because I had to lug a cello around the woods for a week. That’s pretty darn memorable. My book calendar from 2013 suggested this title and I was excited to reminisce.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cabin Pressure: One Man’s Desperate Attempt to Recapture his Youth as a Camp Counselor by Josh Wolk

On the brink of turning thirty-four and almost on the eve of his wedding, Josh Wolk decides that there’s no better way to say goodbye to his bachelor status than to spend a summer as a counselor at his old boys camp in Maine, Camp Eastwinds. Leaving his fiance to work through wedding details, Josh ventures into the woods to teach swimming and life lessons to 14-year-olds who sleep five feet from him. What Josh learns from a summer of adolescent humor, faked enthusiasm, and genuine human connection is that he’s ready for a change but he’ll always be the same person he was when he first started at Camp Eastwinds

This book was a much-needed breath of fresh air for me. I read a lot of heavy and blah books around this one and I needed to remember that books can be funny. My break from writing reviews and summaries was to put my headphones on, turn on Cabin Pressure, and take a walk to the park. I split it up over a long time and the relaxed feeling I got from picturing this Maine camp filled with hyper campers and sarcastic counselors kept me smiling throughout.

Because the book is a memoir, I assume the characters are based on real people. I liked how distinct each of the counselors was, especially Mitch, Charlie, and Helen. I can’t recall the name of the Australian who shared a lunch table with Josh, but he was one of my favorites. Each of the campers had a wonderfully descriptive nickname, which helped me remember them. I remembered that Mensa liked to read and that Windup wouldn’t stop talking. I did think the kids seemed a bit younger than 14 from Josh’s description. I’m not claiming to have spent time with a large group of 14-year-olds, but the portrayal struck me as more like 11 than 14.

Josh’s fiancée, Christine, was my favorite character. Having gotten married less than a year ago, I know how stressful planning a wedding can be. As my husband graduated from college two weeks before our wedding, I had to do a lot of detail planning by myself as well. I think she faced the whole endeavor with a lot more grace and strength than I mustered. I loved her wit and the loving way Josh portrayed her let me know she is an amazing person. I loved the detail he gave about her gift-giving habits. I have a similar quirk about making things personal.

As I said in my intro, I did do a few summer camps as a kid. A lot of them were Girl Scout camps that I attended with my troop and our leaders, one of whom was my mother. Though I did do orchestra camp and I arrived only knowing my best friend, who had accompanied me. When I left, I had made some great friends, learned a lot about playing cello, and had brought myself out of my shell. I related to the boys’ experiences at camp and how it helped them grow as people. I wish I’d been able to go to the same camp for a few years in a row to know the sense of belonging that Josh felt.

My favorite parts of the book were the times Josh spent in the cabin with the boys, moderating their word games and finding their lost clothes. These felt the most real to me and so wonderfully commonplace that only the most connected could find the beauty in them. I think Wolk described them with enough detail that I was drawn in and could still enjoy the scene.

The counselor drama was my least favorite part of the book. When I was a camper, I didn’t want to know that the counselors didn’t like each other or resented each other. I wanted to think they were a big happy family when we weren’t around. It was a bit shattering to see the drama that exists behind the scenes. As if the kids didn’t have their own drama! Mitch added a lot of this and he was the closest thing Josh had to a nemesis in the book. However, he still seemed like an okay guy, just very different from Wolk in every way. He was more of a foil than a villain.

Wolk was able to explore the meaning of youth in this book. His co-counselor, Charlie was retired from the working world and still loved every minute of camp. Josh went through bouts of feeling old, but in the end had enough energy and pep to keep up with a pack of pubescent boys. It’s good to know that getting married isn’t the end of youth that Josh feared it might be. I guess I have some years left in my after all.

Writer’s Takeaways: The humor Wolk used kept me engaged. I don’t think all memoirs should be funny, but Wolk gives a good example of how to pepper it in without being cheesy or overwhelming. His similes were great and never failed to make me laugh. They were well placed to keep the tone light and playful.

A wonderful and needed lighthearted read. Four out of five stars and recommended for those who like a humorous memoir.

This book fulfilled ‘Maine’ for my Where Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

Related Posts:
Under Pressure | Martin’s Musings
Review: CABIN PRESSURE by Josh Wolk | Michelle I. Mason

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