BOOK REVIEW: The Joy of High Places by Patti Miller

The Blurb (from Goodreads):

A soaring memoir of longing, resilience and delight in the natural world.

In this extraordinary and unexpected book, Patti tells the story of her own long-distance walking over hundreds of kilometres in Europe and of her brother’s obsession with paragliding.

As adults, a tragic accident changes their relationship. One day, Barney’s wing collapses and he plummets to earth, breaking his spine. The story of his struggle to walk again intersects Patti’s long-distance journeys, creating an intense narrative of determination and triumph.

For Patti, walking is a radical act – a return to what has made us all human — that bestows a connection to wild nature and to creativity it self. But as she listens to her pragmatic and methodical brother tell his story, she learns that flying is his door to untrammelled joy too. She realises that she is ‘meeting’ him for the very first time.

This beautiful and inspiring book tells their story and reveals that the siblings share a willingness to take risks and an indefatigable determination. With rare insight and poetic writing,The Joy of High Places combines physical adventure with a powerful emotional journey.

My Thoughts:

All my life I’ve loved to walk. Being out in this beautiful world, moving my body and letting my mind drift, seeing things I’ve never seen before and feeling myself strong and well and full of creative energy – walking is a thing of small, easy, everyday joy.


I’ve always wanted to do a pilgrimage, one foot after another, on a long old road. I listen, with amazed longing, to those of my friends who have done it. A few days, a week, a month, many weeks, spent walking and thinking along paths beaten into the landscape over a thousand years.


I’ve never managed to do it. Children, work, deadlines and duties have all kept me deeply rooted at home (though I do travel as much as I can, having a gypsy soul).


So I love to read about other people walking, and imagine myself doing it one day too. Patti Miller is someone I’ve followed on social media for a long time, loving her accounts and photographs of long arduous walks along the Camino in Spain, and other famous walks in England, France, Switzerland, Greece. I bought myself a pair of hiking boots, and have begun trying to build up my strength and stamina, and I plan where I will walk, one day.


Patti Miller’s new book, The Joy of High Places, is a memoir of walking but also of flying. It begins: ‘One day a few years ago, one of my brothers fell to earth and smashed his spine in several places when his paragliding wing collapsed. He believed he was going to die and then, when he realised he was still alive, he thought he would never walk again.’


Her brother Barney’s struggle to learn to walk again, and fly again, is inspiring and poignant, and offers Patti a chance to examine the human longing to be as a bird, soaring high above the world. It also is an examination of family dynamics, and the way we can know someone all their lives but never know them at all.


But, most of all, The Joy of High Places is a celebration of the human spirit, and of our deep and profound connection with nature.


When I’d finished, I posted a photo of the book surrounded by white flowers on Instagram with the caption: I read THE JOY OF HIGH PLACES by Patti Miller in a single sitting yesterday - I adored it! The word I keep thinking of transcendent - it’s so full of joy, beauty, intelligence & wonder. A paean to the power of walking, flying & family.


One of my favourite books of the year.

You might also like to read my review of The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane:

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Kate Forsyth
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