A Higher Calling: Pursuing Love, Faith, and Mount Everest for a Greater Purpose (Waterbrook, June 2020)
A Higher Calling is the compelling true story of one couple’s courage and commitment, devotion and faith in the face of high adventure, unexpected adversity, and spine-tingling danger.
Co-authored by Harold and Rachel Earls, Higher is equal parts biography/memoir, love story, epic adventure, travelogue, and faith-journey. It’s a delightful, uplifting read about two people who sacrifice much to achieve a common goal: summiting personal and actual “Mount Everests.”
Rachel and Harold take turns narrating their story. Although co-narrated books can be jarring, A Higher Calling isn’t one of them. The story glides gracefully between narrators and is briskly paced. Sentences are short and pithy. The style is fluid and easy. Chapters are peppered with dated entries to provide a coherent chronology of events as they unfold. Transitions are smooth, whetting readers’ appetites so they can’t resist turning the page and finding out What. Happens. Next?! (I read the whole book cover-to-cover in one sitting.)
Harold is a senior at West Point. Hard-charging and determined, this guy makes the Energizer Bunny look like a piker. Rachel is a college student who wants more from life than a career and a paycheck.
They meet through Facebook and proceed to fall heads over heels in love. After Harold pops the question, the couple hits a snag: After graduation, Harold plans to tackle the world’s highest mountain despite little to no actual high altitude climbing experience. He later realizes that taking on Mount Everest requires a goal bigger than himself. With Rachel’s encouragement, Harold decides to climb in order to raise PTSD awareness and provide encouragement “to veterans in the midst of climbing their own mountains of adversity.”
The couple creates and edits promotional videos highlighting their cause, fund-raises, and founds “Team Hungry.” They’re still newlyweds when Harold leaves for a summit attempt on “the widow maker.” And more than a few hair-raisers.
In the process, Rachel realizes that supporting her fiance’s (and then her husband’s) goal may cost her everything, including the loss of the love of her life. She frankly describes her fears and anxieties regarding Harold’s bid for the top of the world.
Meanwhile, Harold chronicles how thoughts of Rachel keep him going during a dangerous Mount Everest descent in a treacherous storm. In fact, Harold’s piquant descriptions of his icy climbing adventure may make you want to grab another blanket. Or crank up the furnace.
Rachel and Harold’s inspiring journey of faith, self-awareness and personal and professional growth is generously documented with excerpts from journals, letters, text messages, and a collection of photos following the Epilogue. Several chapters include links to news stories or Rachel’s You Tube account. (Reading on my Kindle, the news story links worked fine. The You Tube links generated error messages.)
Along the way, they learn:
- To make decisions based on what’s best for the family, not just oneself
- To be a “team player” in marriage
- To focus on “us” and not “me”
- The importance of mentors and personal heroes
- The consequences of summit fever
- Sherpas are indispensable
- Why you do not want to experience a communication “deficiency” on Everest’s North Col.
- Why you should always check the “common sense” box
- Why you do not want to get stuck in Everest’s “Rainbow Valley”
- The mission shouldn’t come at the expense of the team
- Step. Pray. Repeat.
Here Are 10 Reasons Why You Should Get A Higher Calling:
- It’s inspirational and just plain fun!
- The book is chatty without being trite.
- The story flows easily, like a kitchen table conversation.
- The skillful weft of a genuine love story, mutual commitment, and a firm faith foundation come through loud and clear.
- Candor, warmth, and humor are doled out in Himalayan-sized dollops.
- The voices are fresh and frank, as refreshing as a cup of cool water on a hot summer day.
- It offers rare insights into the challenges faced by military spouses and the military community.
- By the end of this book you’ll feel like Harold and Rachel are your new best friends.
- Great cover graphic.
- It’s an honest biography that embraces and exalts the Greatest Lover of All.
That being said, here’s a caveat:
While the relational and marital advice offered by the Earls is solid, it sounds a bit presumptuous coming from two twenty-somethings. Like, an Everest expedition, Ranger school or 1M You Tube subscribers do not credibility make on the topic. (Come back in 20+ years, okay?)
Even so, A Higher Calling is a solid, enjoyable read. Outdoor lovers, adventurers, dreamers and couples who are seriously dating, engaged, or newlyweds will benefit from and enjoy this book. Ditto anyone who cherishes a true life story told well.
Mom and Kimber’s Score: 4.0
Read more about our rating system here.