Harley and Me

Embracing Risk On the Road to a More Authentic Life

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Book Description

“Bernadette Murphy’s luminous book shows us how to take risks that make us fierce and vulnerable, knowing that true strength is about being generous as much as it is about not giving in.” —Emily Rapp Black, author of The Still Point of the Turning World and Poster Child

What happens when women in midlife step out of what’s predictable? For Bernadette Murphy, learning to ride a motorcycle at forty–eight becomes the catalyst that transforms her from a settled wife and professor with three teenage children into a woman on her own. The confidence she gained from mastering a new skill and conquering her fears gave her the courage to face deeper issues in her own life and start taking risks. It is a fact that men and women alike become more risk averse in our later years —which according to psychologists and neuroscience is exactly what we should not do. And Murphy stresses that while hers is a story of transformation using a physical risk, emotional and educational risks can serve the same beneficial purpose for other women. 

Murphy uses her own story to explore the larger idea of how risk changes our brain chemistry, how certain personality types embrace dangerous behavior and why it energizes them, and why women’s expectations change once estrogen levels drop after the childbearing years. She also explores the idea of women and risk in pop culture—why there are so few stories of the conquering heroine (instead of hero). Surely Thelma and Louise driving off the cliff should not be our only pop culture reference for women finding true freedom.  

With scientific research and journalistic interviews weaving through a page–turning, road trip narrative, Harley and Me is a compelling look at how one woman changed her life and found deeper meaning out on the open road.

About the Author

Praise For This Book

Praise for Harley and Me

"Let's just say it up front. Bernadette Murphy is a powerful woman, even if she's petite and ‘bird boned.' She survived a childhood with a mentally ill mother. She raised three children. She's a professor, a journalist, a marathoner, an ice climber, a Sierra hiker, and, as she tells us in her gripping memoir, Harley and Me, a brave motorcyclist. This woman has a lot to brag about, and yet, thankfully, she is not casting for bad–ass cred in this memoir. Instead, we see a woman at midlife who's questioning everything she's been taught about gender roles and risk . . . What's truly refreshing is that she shows how the path to transformation is a rocky road. No easy 10 Steps to Survive Your Midlife Crisis provided here. Her story inspires without being tritely inspirational, and that is a real gift." —The Rumpus

"Murphy takes the cliché of the middle–aged man and a sports car and turns it around in this memoir about how she, as a forty–eight–year–old college professor, wife, and mother of three learned to ride a motorcycle. Murphy writes discerningly not only of the motorcycling, but of the underlying neuroscience and psychology. She argues persuasively for the idea of using risk to transform life." — The National Book Review

"Murphy's book is a hybrid: part memoir, part travelogue, part science–psychology. It's a powerful call to reconsider our impulse to 'settle in' during the second half of our lives. For Murphy, risks and new experiences are not exclusive to 25–year–olds. We'd all do well to look 'into the Eyes of the Beast' more often, to lean into our fears, turn on the gas, and roll." — The Chicago Review of Books

"Riveting, intimate, and a fun read . . . Living vicariously through Murphy’s travels gives us insight into what it means to embrace mid–life rather than complain about it. Her story and her book are compelling." —TribeLA Magazine

"Harley and Me is a whip smart, revelatory investigation into the science of risk–taking and a brave memoir of personal growth. Everyone's life crashes at some point, but what Bernadette Murphy did to pull herself upright again makes this book a thrilling ride all the way. It's a road more people ought to travel. You don't have to be a biker or a woman to get what's going on here, Harley and Me is for all of us. But after reading it you may end up buying a motorcycle. I did." —Peter Nichols, bestselling author of The Rocks and A Voyage for Madmen

"With her trademark warmth and sagacity, Bernadette Murphy has penned both a lyrical memoir and a battle cry for personal transformation. She delivers an essential tale, rich with truth and lyricism. Murphy is a master storyteller with a keen wit and a gift for inspiration. " —Jillian Lauren, author of NY Times bestseller Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, and Everything You Ever Wanted

"After reading Harley and Me, I now know that without risk, you can't ride into the center of your life, with or without a motorcycle." —Henry Winkler

"The reason so many people's lives begin to truncate and get small as they move through time is because they've lost the ability to take a risk. Even if that risk is as small as going to a party alone where you don't know anyone. We can all learn to take more risks. Especially when we realize how robust the payoff is. Whether riding a Harley or learning how to dance, taking risks can enhance your life and health on every level. Let Harley and Me be your guide." — Christiane Northrup, M.D., New York Times bestselling author of Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Wellbeing

"In Harley and Me, Bernadette Murphy gives us a road–map for re–wilding a conventional life. This timely memoir is not about getting your life together, it's how to loosen up on a well–lived life and make space for the unexpected. Inspiring, funny, and honest, Murphy puts to rest the old myth that adventurous women always end badly." —Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint It Black

"Lovingly researched and compulsively readable, Harley and Me should come with a warning label: CAUTION! This book will change your life—and in ways you can't yet imagine." —Michelle Huneven, author of Blame and Off Course

"For any woman who has ever needed to adapt or die, Harley and Me is essential reading. Beyond familiar platitudes of loving ourselves and being brave and never giving up, Bernadette Murphy's luminous book shows us how to take risks that make us fierce and vulnerable, knowing that true strength is about being generous as much as it is about not giving in." —Emily Rapp Black, author of The Still Point of the Turning World and Poster Child

"Bernadette Murphy's road memoir is a stirring reminder that it's never too late to become the person you were meant to be. I may never ride a Harley, but Murphy's story has me longing to jump into the driver's seat of my own grand adventure. It's a call to discover the world, take risks, and lean in to possibility. Who says getting older has to mean settling down?" —Sarah Hepola, New York Times bestselling author of Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank To Forget, and former personal essays editor at Salon.com

"For most of us the book is likely be armchair inspiring, but it will probably help you take the next risk you should take..."—MUTHA Magazine