When Silvia's mother called her home to Peru, she knew something finally had to give. A Latinx hero in the elite macho tech world of Silicon Valley, privately, she was hanging by a thread. She was deep in the throes of alcoholism, hiding her sexuality from her family, and repressing the abuse she'd suffered as a child. Her visit to Peru would become a turning point in her life. Silvia started climbing. Something about the brute force required for the ascent—the restricted oxygen at altitude, the vast expanse of emptiness around her, the risk and spirit and sheer size of the mountains, the nearness of death—woke her up. And then, she took her biggest pain to the biggest mountain: Everest.
Powerful ... Vasquez-Lavado’s memoir is many things. It is an adventure saga of her ascent of Everest; a vulnerable meditation on her childhood in Peru; and the tale of an immigrant’s journey to the United States. Above all, the book is Vasquez-Lavado’s reclamation of the truth behind the stories and secrets she had to learn to bear early ...The writing is cinematic ... Two timelines alternate and reinforce each other, like dual strands of a knotted rope. Vivid adventure scenes abound ... At the beginning of the climb, Vasquez-Lavado keeps company with Nepali women who were trafficked as children, voices I wish were more present throughout the book ... Herein lies the wisdom of this work, aptly subtitled 'A Memoir of Courage': In a world that demands us to harden, to tell stories of strength and triumph, the bravest act can be embracing our inner child, our fears, our truths.
A compelling, experience-rich read ... The final chapters, describing Vasquez-Lavado’s path to the summit, are nail-biting and, at times, painfully funny ... Her ability to capture the complexity of Everest is flawless and unflinching ... In the Shadow of the Mountain has all the elements a great memoir requires — a strong voice, cinematic prose, a hero to root for — in essence, an extraordinary story about an extraordinary woman’s life.