Skip to main content

To the Last Breath: A Memoir of Going to Extremes

Bookreporter.com Bets On...

To the Last Breath: A Memoir of Going to Extremes

A few months ago, I saw a wonderful movie called The Way starring Martin Sheen, in which “a father heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the ‘El camino de Santiago,’ and decides to take the pilgrimage himself.” While I am neither a hiker nor much of an athlete beyond swimming in the pool, journeys like this intrigue me --- both for the physical endurance of them and the way people can open their minds when they are away from the everyday world.

Thus I picked up TO THE LAST BREATH: A Memoir of Going to Extremes, which I found wonderful in the way that I loved THE WAVE, CRAZY FOR THE STORM, SHADOW DIVERS and THE LAST DIVE. Francis Slakey is a physics professor at Georgetown who one day found he was going through the motions of life, not really connecting with people the way he wanted. His lectures were such that at the end of the day, he would realize that he had written long theorems, but not really spoken to students. Relationships were not working out. So he decided to take on a new challenge --- to climb the highest mountain on every continent and surf every ocean.

It’s a grabber from the start, and as Slakey moves up and down the peaks and across the oceans, he finds himself --- and a whole new life unfolds. And little by little, the things that he has said “never” about edge away to make room for the person he has become. Reading it will have you longing to take your own journey, perhaps not one as extreme in nature, but something where going to a new place will give you a chance to unlock parts of yourself that the day-to-day world does not allow.

One more thing. We so rarely look at a map of the entire world once we leave geography class behind. Here I found myself as drawn to those as I was to the story. And it was interesting what Slakey (whose nickname is Slake) learned as well. There are nuggets of information in there that I never knew…or had forgotten.

To the Last Breath: A Memoir of Going to Extremes
by Francis Slakey

  • Publication Date: May 28, 2013
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 1439198969
  • ISBN-13: 9781439198964