Casper Journal: “Cate Cabot”
By Elysia Connor
Book Review by Mark Stevens
Author of the award winning novel Trapline and the Alison Coil Mystery series
If you’re going to write a memoir, it’s probably a good idea to have a story to tell. Or something to say. Cate Cabot has plenty of both.
“I have no interest in continuing the legacy of titillating, gratuitous and voyeuristic violence that too much of our literature and media have borne into our lives, our culture, our world,” she writes in the Author’s Note. “My interest is how we move on. How we create other kinds of worlds, new stories, [how] we come through the agonies of life to create revelation, to love and care. My interest lies in how we become more than the awfulness our agonies make us prone to, how it is that we heal, how we make art of our lives.”
“Uncharted,” is a harrowing ride. But, true to her word, Cabot puts as much emphasis on the in-the-moment processing of events and long-haul reflection. I’m not someone who reads a lot of memoirs but I have read all three of Mary Karr’s titles and recently enjoyed Alexandra Fuller’s first, “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.” I’d put “Uncharted” on the same list of strong memoirs.
Much happens to—and around Cate Cabot—but the centerpiece event is a frightening night of rape when Cate and two friends easily could have lost their lives while on a road trip in Nevada. Cabot interweaves the micro moment and the cosmic picture as she recalls the events, searching for explanations and looking for patterns. “Beyond windows hollow orphans of light flicker, stars twinkling through cloud. They seem to shiver then disappear across distant sky. The weight of all of us stacked with no answers wavers away from the turning planets out there. I don’t find myself in the stars or planets or the desert beyond. I don’t find myself anywhere. There is only silence, and this waiting, the desolation, the pain and shivering isolation.”
I won’t list the other major events that happen, but they all seem to center around two words of Cabot’s: “calloused indifference.” Death hovers around, far more (I would say) than any one person should have to endure. Pain, grief, abuse, abandonment, emotional turmoil—you name it. If you think you’re having a bad day, well, stop and think what Cate Cabot has been through. Or what she’s seen. Putting the scenes and her thoughts on the page surely involved an act of courage as bold as any of the steps she took out there in the desert in 1971.
Cabot writes with an intense and introspective style. (Of course it’s introspective, it’s a memoir.) She turns to studying and understanding her dreams—and recounts key dreams in detail, too. She acknowledges that she chose a “life of investigation” and that she makes “deep” inquiry into every facet of her life. Ultimately, her process of understanding is as uncharted as the events themselves.
Alfred North Whitehead once wrote that “art is the imposing of a pattern on experience.” Cabot imposes nothing on anything. She looks, feels, sees, and discovers patterns—and then produces a memorable piece of art about one vivid human experience.
Book Review by Barbara Gerber
Author of Love and Death in a Perfect World
Hold onto your seat—this book is a wild ride!
Cate Cabot prefaces her book with a quote from Carl Jung: “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.” The reader must accept that there will indeed be darkness here, with no sugar-coated glossing-over of tough stuff. But we also get a book that soars with passion, wonder, beauty, and joy.
Cabot is intensely sensitive, deep-feeling, and observant—of her surroundings, of others’ emotions and motivations, of her own processes—and gives us a deep “inside” look at what she encounters and learns in her extraordinary life. “As a child, I loved the world,” Cabot writes. “I was a porous one, open with deep sensitivities. I did not know what this meant then or what it would come to mean.”
Well, what it came to mean ultimately ranged from deep joy and communion with her world to fighting for her life in terrifying, violent situations. She was nearly murdered once, has witnessed more than her share of chilling, disturbing events, and has endured tremendous loss. “Why do some of us seem chosen or destined to walk difficult pathways?” Cabot asks, adding that she has never seen herself as a victim. “Are we here to learn something, work something out or serve in some way? Why do some of us feel the world so acutely?”
Cabot’s book is not entirely a memoir but does have a narrative arc. Written entirely in the present tense, her style is at once lyrical and powerful. Consider this description of a wooded area in Wyoming: “Leaves sparkle morning and evening light dapple, court sunrise, flirt afternoon. Waters gurgle in miniature cascade, a melody transparent from gravelly depths of the river.” She constantly bends language to her own needs.
For Cabot, time also bends; it is not linear. An “inner metronome” guides her and she experiences “channels between times.” This lifetime seems to be an opportunity for her to heal the past—to face old pain and clear it.
I don’t have an answer to Cabot’s question of why some lives are harder and more perplexing than others, but I am certainly glad she explored these questions and shared her insights with us. And I‘m relieved to hear her state, “I have made it to safety.”
This is a book with guts and a soul, bloody fangs and angel’s wings – a map into the depths of shocking truths and the shameless awareness of our own raw and sacred power.
The writing is visceral. It pulls you into a part of human awareness that is well beyond words, yet the author’s craft is the perfect vehicle for transport. Many times the reader has to step back and remind him/herself that Cate Cabot lived to tell this tale, and grew well beyond where most of us go in a lifetime. It is a unique and unforgettable study in perception and sense-making, illuminated by one of the most courageous women of our time. This story proves that we have strengths and skills that can be tapped for resurrection even in the darkest experiences. There is a light – a warm and enlightening one – at the end of this journey that gives hope and encouragement to those whose lives run on a similar track. Be brave and treat yourself to an engrossing read.
Executive Director Horse Warriors
“Cate Cabot has created a beautifully crafted and emotionally charged book that captures both the vastness and dangers of the West and the impact and importance that our stories have in forming who we become — challenging us to move on and reminding us that we are not alone. This book is an exhale.”
Author of The Manny Files
“Cate Cabot is a gifted and compelling storyteller. With Uncharted, she tracks shadows and mysteries surrounding her courageous life, and brings back this book of compassion and wisdom. Hers is a voice of linguistic Light.”
Poet and author of Out of the Flames and the upcoming Earth is the Book
“With a unique voice and unsparing detail, Cate Cabot tells a riveting story of survival. The themes will be familiar to many readers – a broken family, traumas of young adulthood, coming to terms with one’s past. She delves deep into the events of her life to understand their meaning and to transcend what came before. Her story goes beyond the personal to offer a blueprint for anyone trying to bring meaning and power to life. I would add a supplement to the adage that an unexamined life is not worth living: an examined, and shared, life is not only worth living but is a gift to others. This is a book I couldn’t put down.”
Author of the novel War Creek and the memoir A Hunger for Wild Country
“The book is really remarkable. Thank you for letting me benefit from all the hard work you did. Your honesty and willingness to face, consider and write about painful events in your life sometimes astonishes me… it takes so much courage and in some ways, trust in the reader to be open and with you. The book is very intimate, and it did feel to me as though I was sitting next to you or just outside your view much of the time. The transcendental episodes add another element in which the reader needs to suspend disbelief, often right in the middle of a graphic episode. This is very cinematic and so the book is quite a visual experience as well.”
Lisa Feder Feitel
Award-winning journalist and winner of a National Magazine Award
New York, New York