The Education of Augie Merasty: A Residential School Memoir by Joseph Auguste Merasty, David Carpenter
This is a tough one to review for multiple reasons. It’s almost as if it’s two separate books in one. Augie Merasty begins writing a memoir of his forced time in Ste. Therese, a residential school in Canada. He wants help and writes a letter catching the attention of a former English professor, David Carpenter. Over the course of many years, David and Augie correspond back and forth with Augie sending bits of his life story. David opens the book with a very long account of his contact with Augie and the difficulty he has in compiling a full story. Augie is ravaged by alcoholism and is at one point, homeless. David often has a hard time getting Augie to respond to questions as he tries to help with the memoir. David’s portion of the book is excessively long, and while I imagine it’s included to provide background on why Augie’s actual memoir is so brief, it’s unnecessarily cumbersome. The thing that struck me the most about Augie’s retelling of his life story is that although he experienced horrific sexual and physical abuse at the hands of Catholic church leaders, he was still able to share stories of kindness and compassion that he experienced from Sister St. Alphonse, Sister St. Famille, and others. He recognizes the humanity in people even though they failed him. I don’t know how people can face such severe trauma and still see the good in humankind. The brutality of his forced assimilation is heart-breaking, and Augie is clear that the hypocrisy of religious leaders abusing children, looking the other way, depriving them of nutritious food and then parading in buffets when the Bishop comes to visit, is the worst kind of prison. The main goal of these government funded schools was to destroy everything Indian in a child. They were stripped of their language, their identity, and dignity. Augie’s words are powerful and somber, but his voice is surprisingly hopeful, and even humorous at times – a compelling model of resiliency.
Colorado is an outdoor lover's dream, and I feel like Denver may have personally invited me to move there after this most recent trip. This state is to travelers what the "fun aunt" or "funty" is for nieces and nephews. You feel like you're getting away with something because you get to play outside all day, eat cookies for dinner, and see some kooky stuff in her house. Also, Aunty Colorado is so damn nice. Like really nice. She genuinely cares about you.
I spent five days in and around Denver on a girls' trip, and the group wanted a mix of party time in the city with a healthy dose of hiking and adventure. I feel like we killed it in this department. We crammed in nature with some day trips to Red Rocks, Golden, and Boulder, sprinkling in the cringy but obligatory, matching shirt, girl-gang-thing in downtown Denver.
The Flatirons, Boulder
I mean, just look at the picture above; these sandstone formations make for an impressive view when you first pull into the parking lot at the Chautauqua Park Trailhead. We spoke to a trail guide who recommended the Wood's Quarry and Stone House Loop ending on the Enchanted Mesa. I'm so glad this guy was there because the trail was incredible. The high point was the stone chair set-up to rest your feet, have a little snack and soak in the view. Get ready for a steep uphill climb, but I assure you it's worth the sweat.
Happy Camper (Denver)
This funky pizza joint is a dizzying assault on your senses but in the best way possible. There are crazy seating arrangements, bright colors, and varied textures. This place was packed; reservations are a must. The whole vibe screams relaxed, good time.
Appendix: A Hodge Podge
Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row - huge restaurant where they move all of the chairs away for late-night dancing. I can't say it's anything special, but as a big group of girls, we had a blast here.
Hayter's & Co - sports bar and restaurant right near Coors Field with a great rooftop
Finn's Manor (RiNo) - funky cocktail bar with lots of rustic outdoor seating and food truck service. Some food was literally served out of an old, stationary, rusted truck with a grill set into it. The whole set-up is trendy and a great space for large groups.
The Golden Mill - You can see this restaurant/bar from your tube on Clear Creek right as you're getting close to the end of your whitewater trip. It's a self-service bar where you get a card upon entry and fill up your own glasses with tons of drink options. The margaritas were absolutely delicious. Order food from various different windows including tacos, BBQ, and other American classics. This is a great place to relax after a day on the water.
Shopping in Golden - There are tons of quaint general stores in Golden with adorable Colorado and Coors merchandise. I'm a sucker for an old-timey general store, so I got lost here for quite a long time.
Postscript: What I Missed
I could probably go back to Denver ten more times and not see enough. It's a special place. Here are some of the things on my list for the next time:
Rocky Mountain National Park - Obviously, this was dumb to miss, but it just wasn't that kind of a trip. We wanted shorter hikes and this national park deserves a lot of time. We also didn't plan ahead and make a reservation in enough time. You absolutely have to go here when in Denver.
Denver Botanic Gardens - stroll through a vast expanse of different environments
Union Station - dining and shopping center located in a working train/bus station
Coors Field - catch a game and/or a tour of the stadium
Coors Brewery - get a reservation for an hour-long guided tour, ending in a tasting room
Larimer Square - lively section of downtown Denver filled with shopping, entertainment, and restaurants
Meow Wolf - immersive contemporary art museum that feels like it was produced by what can only be described as if a fun house, a ghost house, a carnival, and an art gallery had a baby.
Sadie is set in Colorado!
Sadie’s story is told through the lens of a serial podcast which is a pretty cool way to start off a young adult contemporary mystery. Everyone I know, including myself, is obsessed with true crime and the podcasts that keep us all up late at night worrying about every creepy sound. Yet, we keep listening to them over and over again anyway. What is wrong with true crime junkies? What’s wrong with us? Why do we have this macabre pull to delve into the details of horrific crime? Whatever the reason, author Courtney Summers is cashing in on this twisted love of crimes and the podcasts that explore them. Sadie raises her younger sister, Mattie in a small town, trying desperately to save her from the life of drug addiction and the carousel of men that plague her absent mother’s life. Mattie goes missing and turns up dead, sending Sadie on a journey throughout Colorado to find understanding about her own trauma and to avenge her sister’s murder. West McCray hears about the sisters and starts to piece together the tragic saga of Sadie’s disappearance in hopes of also discovering what happened to Mattie. He shares his investigation in a podcast, and you’ll be on the edge of your seat, tearing off your fingernails, and skipping over pages to find out if West finds Sadie before it’s too late.
This story is dark, and Sadie’s voice is appropriately detached and haunted. She’s been forced to forgo her childhood and take care of her sister in a small, isolated town with few resources. When her world is upended, she becomes singularly focused on making it right. The podcast setting was fascinating and a really smart move by Summers. It definitely reads like a true crime podcast, but Sadie’s narration is also key to the emotion and pull of the story.
Travel All the Pages is inspired by my two loves - travel and reading, a combo I can't resist. Enjoy these little pairings.