SIP&SLICE Book Review: Becoming Odyssa


She tells stories, runs a business, inspires women young and old, encourages people to spend time outdoors, and hikes long distance trails at record-breaking speeds. Jennifer Pharr Davis offers insightful perspective and chronicles a transformational journey of her five-month hike of the Appalachian Trail, a 2,185* mile footpath that stretches from Maine to Georgia, in her first book Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail.

Her thru-hiking adventures began immediately after graduating college as a classics major. Suitably, Pharr Davis selected the trail name Odyssa when she started her hike because she thought about what the name meant and considered that maybe she was a wanderer on a long journey back to her home. She spent the next five months hiking, listening to others tell their stories, telling her own story, gaining confidence, exploring her options in life, and deciding she needed to spend her life doing something she enjoyed instead of sitting behind a desk. She figured out what she wanted to do and “knew that something deep within connected with nature, hard work, and simplicity.” She started an outdoor hiking company.

Pharr Davis recaps each section of her 2005 journey on the Appalachian Trail with one-word. This collection of one-word chapter headings ranges from ‘love’ to ‘perseverance’ to ‘optimism’ to ‘homecoming’ in the final stretch. This isn’t just a book about hiking; it’s a story of a young woman finding and transforming herself from the naïveté of Jen to the experience of Odyssa. “I knew that I was beautiful, despite what other people said, and I appreciated my body based on what it could do instead of on how it looked.” She describes home not as a physical place but a state of truly knowing self and feeling at peace.

Following this epic adventure, Jennifer Pharr Davis went on to claim the women’s speed record for hiking the Appalachian Trail in 57 days and then later set the overall record hiking faster than any man or woman by completing the 2180 + mile trail in 46 days 11 hours and 20 minutes in 2011. Read about the record-setting hike in her book Called Again: A Story of Love and Triumph.

*The exact number of miles varies slightly from year to year when the Appalachian Trail Conservancy paints fresh white blazes (small white rectangles) on trees and posts denoting the path each year.


Renee Boss is an educator and activist who believes access to quality education is a right for everyone. She is also a book lover, who has made it her goal to devour a book a week. She lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband and two sons.

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