An acclaimed essay writer and memoirist tells the story of her life-changing meeting with a female Alaskan Artic ice road trucker.
Butcher first discovered Joy “Mothertrucker” Wiebe on Instagram, where she fell in love with her photos of the John W. Dalton highway, a road where “more drivers die…annually than anywhere else in our America.” But the connection to Mothertrucker ran deeper than images. Independent and fearless, she “had built her home in a place of unfathomable fear and danger, in a landscape dominated by men and machinery, in an industry and a remote terrain whose googling returns mostly photos of house-high snowdrifts and 18-wheelers crushed and crumpled like pieces of paper, as if God took them in his fist and squeezed.” A successful professor who had navigated a male-dominated professional world, Butcher nurtured a troubling secret: involvement with an abusive boyfriend named Dave. She contacted Mothertrucker after a particularly disturbing bout of verbal abuse and embarked on a six-day interview. Their connection was immediate despite their different backgrounds. Mothertrucker was a working-class Christian with an open, profoundly spiritual view of God. For Butcher, the concept of religion and church was more “complicated,” especially regarding Dave, who loved God and “tried to scream his faith into me.” During their treacherous drive from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay, Butcher and Mothertrucker discussed their lives, finding commonality in their experiences with love, bad relationships, and controlling men. A bad first marriage, at age 17, had taught Mothertrucker to value herself and her desires above what her husband wanted; listening to her, Butcher realized what she already knew: Her life was her own, and she could “choose happiness and safety [or] choose Dave.” A sobering reflection on verbal and psychological abuse, Butcher’s book honors the healing power of female friendship and questions the nature of divinity beyond its constricting patriarchal manifestations.
A searching and deeply empathetic memoir.
A sobering reflection on verbal and psychological abuse, Butcher’s book honors the healing power of female friendship and questions the nature of divinity beyond its constricting patriarchal manifestations. A searching and deeply empathetic memoir.” —Kirkus Reviews
“In this tender and gripping tale, essayist Butcher (Visiting Hours) recounts her unlikely adventure through Alaska with the country’s only female ice trucker, the late Joy “Mothertrucker” Wiebe…Along the way, Butcher explores myriad issues with nuance and grace, including Indigenous rights, violence against women, religious hypocrisy, and environmental concerns. It’s a trip readers won’t soon forget.” —Publishers Weekly
“[Butcher] brings the details to vivid life as she describes both the brutally beautiful landscape and the many people she and Joy met on their brief journey together. A moving account of the impact of connection between women.” —Booklist
“It’s through the context of Butcher’s and Wiebe’s shared experiences—and their attempts at sharing what they’ve gone through with each other—that Alaska truly enters the fabric of the text…This works well. The way Alaska (and land, in general) is often portrayed in books is as a feminine force: a place that offers refuge, that provides, and that consoles…This book is the journey of Butcher’s seeing Alaska as she is journeying to revise her imaginings of people—real, imperfect, frustrating, beautiful.” —Daily Sitka Sentinel
“Butcher’s Mothertrucker takes a nuanced look at the stories of women—specifically her’s and Wieibe’s—to understand the complexities of relationships with intimate partner violence.” —Chicago Review of Books
“A tribute to the power of female friendship to get us through anything, including domestic abuse, Mothertrucker is a compelling story of a professor, Amy, who seeks out an Instagram celebrity ice driver, and rides shotgun on an unforgettable, 400-mile trip through Alaska.” —Good Morning America
“Amy Butcher’s Mothertrucker is a riveting book, a dynamic portrait of an extraordinary woman—a long-haul trucker, a mother, a survivor—whose company carries us into even broader explorations of friendship, trauma, renewal, and the collision of many kinds of precarity: environmental, economic, and emotional. Butcher’s voice is tender, curious, adamant, grateful, and always, always searching for a more complicated version of the truth.” —Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams and The Recovering
“Mothertrucker is an unputdownable page-turner, the kind that asks you to listen more closely, behold each beauty, perceive every flicker of buoyancy or trepidation. This book is an adventure into the expanse of Alaska’s wild, as luminous on the earthly plane as it is in the psyche—just as all good road trips are. Butcher’s prose is a match struck in the dark. Readers will lean into each sling of the truck and know the cumbrous lurking of violence that shadows women into definition. Amy Butcher has crafted a tribute to a savior, and created one in its making. In short: I never wanted this book to end.” —T Kira Madden, author of Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls
“Amy Butcher’s Mothertrucker is both an intimate portrait of an unforgettable woman and a powerful exploration of how the author finds her way to a more courageous life. There’s truth and beauty on every page of this gorgeous and gripping book.” —Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild
“This remarkable book is a polyphonic triumph of holy themes. It’s a stunning tribute to the life of a brilliant soul. It’s a social reckoning. It’s a call to possibility. And it’s a path to self-love. Healing is a journey, not a destination, and these pages allow us a passenger seat on Butcher’s transformative ride of a lifetime.” —Alissa Nutting, author of Tampa and Made for Love
“I used to wonder what it would feel like to read a nonfictive piece of art that read like a literary novel, a mystery, a feature, the best of travel writing and welcoming theory. Now I know. A lot will be written about what Amy Butcher pulls off in this book. It’s the how that is unsettling in the best way, the how that moves this book from remarkable to a gritty greatness we seldom experience in American literature.” —Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy and Long Division
“A beautifully written exploration of a woman’s endeavor to let go of fear and open herself to joy. Can the divine be found on the most dangerous ice road in Alaska? Or is it through our own souls’ journeys toward a most loving and merciful understanding of our own courage and pain? Or both and more? Amy Butcher takes us along for the ride with exquisite writing and heart-pounding yearning.” —Joey Soloway, creator of Transparent and I Love Dick
“This book should be required reading. Amy Butcher writes a wholly immersive and heart-stopping meditation on love, God, and intimate violence; I wanted to reach back through generations and hand this book to every woman in my family. May we all take this transforming ride on the most dangerous highway in America and become changed. We will be better for it.” —Chelsea Bieker, author of Godshot
“At once a gripping narrative, voyage of self-discovery, and manifesto of the power of female solidarity, Mothertrucker made me ache for all the women who have seen me, changed me, saved me. This book lights up the ways we as women lie to ourselves, even when we seem so strong, and recognizes that, more than any achievement or barrier broken, showing up for one another—being vulnerable with one another—will set us free.” —Sarah Menkedick, author of Ordinary Insanity: Fear and the Silent Crisis of Motherhood in America
“An extraordinary story about the power and solace of female friendship. Butcher’s journey into the Alaskan Arctic—a place of danger and beauty—illuminates the complex psychic landscape of two women navigating domestic abuse through a deft blending of place and identity. Fearless, raw, and gripping. Butcher has written a necessary and urgent book.” —Jen Percy, New York Times contributing writer and author of Demon Camp
“Like her subject, Joy ‘Mothertrucker’ Wiebe, Amy Butcher knows the power of women’s words, and the power of women’s friendships to disrupt and dismantle cycles of violence and despair. Mothertrucker is raw, beautiful, and at times terrifying—not unlike the Alaskan landscape its gifted author describes. But what it is more than anything else is hopeful. This book is a gift.” —Cameron Dezen Hammon, author of This Is My Body
“Mothertrucker is a gorgeously written and immersive memoir that I binged in a day. I love this book, this story, and Amy Butcher for taking me along for the ride.” —Mary Miller, author of Biloxi