"a reminder that one day, not long ago, an old man entrusted me with the stories of his life and then ran back into the forest."
Outsider by Brett Popplewell
Outsider gives readers a look at the life of an 81 year old man who lives on the brink of civilization now. It tells us his life story and how he got to where he is.
This was so well written and in a way that is respectful to the life story of Dag. This man has lived an incredible life, it gave me Into the Wild and Stranger in the Woods vibes without something else I just cannot put my finger on. Definitely a recommend to anyone who enjoys nonfiction, especially those who enjoyed books like those mentioned above.
There are stories among the locals of Vernon, British Columbia of an elderly, weather-beaten man that inhabits the isolated mountains of the Okanagan valley. The man has survived years of freezing winters and scorching summers in a ramshackle yellow school bus surrounded by what appears to be an endless stretch of wilderness. Why would anyone want to live like this? Brett Popplewell was plagued by this question when his former colleague shared the story of Dag Aabye, a former stunt man, logger, long-distance runner, and extreme skier that chose to leave society and live his life in extreme isolation. Intent on learning Dag’s story, Brett departed to British Columbia in search of the man whose lifestyle challenges our perception of aging.
This novel was a very great read! It’s not the type of book that I usually pick up, but I‘m glad I did! Dag’s story is absolutely mind blowing, and I’m very impressed by all that he’s accomplished and continues to accomplish. He goes on early morning runs before the sun is up, has stood up to a bear, and survived everything nature has thrown at him. He can run for 24 hours straight which is very impressive for a man of his age! Brett included images of Dag throughout the book which provided me with a great visual while reading. I didn’t fully understand how old and frail looking Dag was until I turned a page and saw the image of him.
Brett Popplewell has done an exceptional job at incorporating historical elements into the book. These chapters that were skillfully woven into Dag’s story allowed me to understand and appreciate what shaped Dag into the man he is today. This biography is perfect for fans of Into the Wild and anyone who is passionate about the outdoors and extreme sports.
Described as the fascinating true story of Dag Aabye - a marathon-running hermit and a journalist’s quest to solve the mystery at the core of Dag's existence, I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading Outsider. What I found was a book so gripping I knew I'd be giving it 5 stars within the first 50 pages.
Dag lives a simple, yet hard life. Spending much of his time and energy running around between his lair - a converted and dilapidated bus in the deep woods of British Columbia - and the outside world. And the "running around" is quite literal here, with Dag consistently doing more steps daily than anyone I know in often very challenging conditions. His need for extreme activity seems ingrained deep in his person. He loves the quiet of the woods and the shelter it provides from the oddities of modern life. He especially loves early mornings, often putting on his shoes and heading out for a run before the sun comes up. He wants for little, seems to leave a mark wherever he goes and has touched lives from many walks of life and many parts of the world.
Dag is unlike anyone I have ever read about. Reading his story felt very much like peeling an onion with never ending layers. I gasped, I sat in awe, I cried, but mostly, I felt compelled to action or purpose in reading about Dag. Even though I do not understand some of Dag's choices, his life is inspiring. He presents as a wild mountain man who may be partially dissociative, but he is well read and intentional in ways that make him profound.
Some of my favorite quotes from this book and Dag's journal are simple AF but also profoundly deep:
"Time matters most when it is running out."
"Consciousness shapes reality."
"My wealth is not in what I have, but how I feel."
"Of all the ways you can limit yourself, self-definition is the most powerful."
Overall, I freaking loved this book. It felt part Into the Wild, part Stranger in the Woods, but also very much like a mountain man version of Forest Gump. Dag has lived an incredible life filled with unbelievable experiences that are almost too much for one lifetime. He seems more enigmatic, mysterious and intriguing than many of the fictional characters I've read about and I questioned more than once "how can the details of Dag's journey be real?"
I am grateful to Dag for sharing an insight into his life and some of the philosophies that kept him going when it seems like 99.9% of people would have given up. I am also grateful to Brett Popplewell, for capturing such an unputdownable story. I started this book on my lunch break and kept thinking about it every time I had to put it down. I did not intend to read it in one day, but I was too curious not to stay up until the wee hours of the morning to finish reading. I admit to going down a rabbit hole on the internet once I finished this book to search for video clips of Dag and proof that I wasn't duped into reading a faux memoir. However, Dag is definitely real and this book will definitely stay with me for a while.
I recommend the Outsider to people that enjoy non-fiction, non-fiction that reads like fiction, epic life stories, thinking about perspective, learning about resilience, finding the beauty in simple things, living with purpose, unexpected connections, thinking about where we come from and how that shapes us, and thinking about the meaning of it all. What a read!
Thank you to HarperCollins Canada and NetGalley for sending me a digital advanced reader copy of Outsider in exchange for an honest review.