The Trail to Tincup: Love Stories as Life’s End, Joyce Hocker: Book Review

A beautiful look at how death braids into life.

Trail to Tincup Joyce Hocker Book Review
The Trail to Tincup: Love Stories at Life's End Book Cover The Trail to Tincup: Love Stories at Life's End
Joyce Hocker
She Writes Press
May 15, 2018

A psychologist reckons with the loss of four family members within a span of two years. Hocker works backward into the lives of these people and forward into the values, perspective, and qualities they bestowed before and after leaving. Following the trail to their common gravesite in Tincup, Colorado, she remembers and recounts decisive stories and delves into artifacts, journals, and her own dreams. In the process the grip of grief begins to lessen, death braids its way into life, and life informs the losses with abiding connections. Gradually, she begins to find herself capable of imagining life without her sister and best friend. Toward the end of the book, Hocker’s own near-death experience illuminates how familiarity with her individual mortality helps her live with joy, confidence, and openness

This is an ARC review of Joyce Hocker’s The Trail to Tincup, which releases May 15, 2018

*Special thanks to She Writes Press for allowing us to read and review ahead of publication

Facing the unexpected and shocking deaths of her sister-in-law Dianne, sister and best friend, Janice and both her parents almost back to back, Joyce Hocker found herself falling into a spiraling depression. Dealing with one loss can feel impossible, coping with four deaths from all sides is unconquerable.

Following in the tradition of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights and C.S. LewisA Grief Observed, Hocker writes frankly and truthfully about the grief she experienced. Having grown up in an incredibly tight-knit family, Hocker writes through a string of losses that kept her confined to her bed most days. She writes her way out of the loneliness she suffered upon her husband and of the depth in her friendships. How the only thing that seemed to pull her out of such gloom was her job as a clinical psychologist, and how even that worked only briefly. Hocker records her dealings with depression and the feeling of grief as a never-ending tunnel that she would not be able to escape from.

But the memoir is far from a downer. While the book is ostensibly about anxiety brought about by the loss of loved ones, Hocker occupies much of her time and energy meditating on life. In brief spurts, Hocker recounts her family’s “memory DNA”  — the things that make them extraordinary and consequentially bounded by one another. She writes of learning to let go of physical things while explaining that as long as you love someone you never really have to let them go. She writes on uncovering once and for all the importance of a tender life — to celebrate every breath you’re given and every moment you have with those you hold dearest.

The Trail to Tincup is a deeply introspective memoir. While most memoirs are usually misunderstood as superficially simple — the Hockers aren’t unusual or celebrity in any way — what Hocker presents is quite exceptional. The stories she tells of her family — a like-minded sister, Native American sister-in-law, her pastor’s wife mother and civil rights warrior father — are fascinating and feel universal enough. She picks and tells the stories in a way where the reader never feels weighed down with the unwanted history of a stranger’s relatives but rather as if they were lucky enough to get a glimpse into the lives of truly wonderful people — people they would have been fortunate to have known.

The poetic language and integration of her Jungian philosophies (which emphasize the importance of the individual psyche and the personal quest for wholeness) enriches the meditative power of The Trail to Tincup — this is a book best consumed in long stretches. In all, Hocker’s first memoir is a beautiful narrative of death and love and should be required reading for anyone who’s ever dealt with loss.
Madison Troyer
the authorMadison Troyer
Book Contributor (Intern)
Maddie is an Idaho native turned Brooklyn dweller. In 2015 she completed her B.A. in Media, Culture and the Arts at The King’s College, and has worked as an entertainment and lifestyle writer for various outlets ever since. In her free time you can find her with her nose buried in a book, chasing her next half marathon PR or playing endless rounds of dominoes with her boyfriend in Bed-Stuy.