Unpacked: A Memoir of Checked Baggage ALY COY
In Herizons Spring 2020
REVIEW BY WENDY JUDITH CUTLER
Aly Coy’s debut memoir, Unpacked: A Memoir of Checked Baggage, is about her nomadic backpacking travels through Western Europe during her twenties. With fast-paced, sen- sory-detailed and luscious prose,
it is a bold, often disturbing and utterly captivating read. The book captures two timelines during a five-year period, beginning with Coy deciding between two paths: continue living in an off-grid village in the Spanish Pyrenees or book a plane ticket back to Canada.
The memoir never inches from authenticity and brutal honesty. Coy consumes a lot of drugs, has numerous sexual liaisons and wonders what it all means. She shows us the thrills and challenges brought on by spontaneous choices, searches for intimacy and gradually faces the reality of dating a controlling and eruptive partner.
During her travels, Coy opens herself to what is at hand, working a series of jobs so that she can afford to stay abroad. She helps a goat give birth in the Pyrenees, attends raves in Amsterdam and Seville and dumpster dives. She also learns radical herbalism at a squatted farm in the Netherlands and comes to see the people she encounters as a kind of family.
We are engaged witnesses as she allows her heart to guide her and as she eventually opens up enough to begin a close, intimate relationship. As readers, we are never blind to her vulnerability and wonder throughout the book whether she will stay or leave. Her story is a testament to her resilience and determin- ation to not only survive but thrive—an inspiration to readers.
Today, Aly Coy is an herbalist, author and the owner of Barefoot Daughter, a botanical body care business. She also lives off-grid in a cabin on Salt Spring Island, B.C. For every book sold, one tree will be planted in partnership with the Seven Ravens Eco-Forest.