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Book review: Werner's memoir 'Gravity Hill' looks back at wild teen years

Published: Sunday, May 5 2013 3:00 p.m. MDT

GRAVITY HILL,” by Maximilian Werner, University of Utah Press, $15.95, 192 pages (nf)

Gravity Hill is a place where Maximilian Werner would go up in the mountains and, due to the illusion of an uphill slope that is actually downhill, if a vehicle weren’t in gear, it would appear to go uphill.

On the day Werner describes going there in his memoir “Gravity Hill,” he couldn’t actually find the precise spot.

This attempt to at least appear to defy gravity is one of the many stories Werner shares of his musings as a husband and father of two and his chemical-fueled adolescent years some two decades ago.

Werner is an incredible storyteller, deftly drawing in the reader into what could be a mundane retelling but isn't.

He agilely switches from tender stories of his young children, musings as a father and he and his wife’s struggle with infertility, to stories of his raw teenage years, where he skipped school (and apparently wasn’t missed), drank and experimented with a variety of drugs and isn’t shy about his sexual encounters with girls. He will start with one story, then dive into the background and finish the story without the reader feeling like they’ve been taken down a tangential rabbit trail. (He has changed the names or given nicknames to his friends and others to protect their privacy.)

Werner, who teaches writing at the University of Utah, is very honest and open in his remembrances of his teenage struggles and doesn’t shy away his drug use or the other wild activities he and his friends indulged in as they felt like outsiders in the largely Mormon-populated Salt Lake Valley.

Werner also looks to the future as he looks at his parents and their struggles with aging.

He doesn’t dwell on what-could-have-beens or place blame elsewhere for his or others’ actions.

“Gravity Hill” does include swearing throughout, the author does freely share his drug use and details of his teenage sexual encounters.

If you go ...

What: Maxmilian Werner book signing

When: Friday, May 10, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com

Email: rappleye@desnews.com Twitter: CTRappleye

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