Hiking Through: One Man's Journey to Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail) on a shelf at a bookstore I might have pigeon holed the potential readers into several narrow stereotypes-- Guys. Woodsman kind of guys. Guys who like gear and mountains and outdoor stuff.
If the "guy" didn't have some sort of inclination for the outdoors, then he'd had to have recently gone through a tough time in his life, emotionally or spiritually, something he was trying to figure out, and therefore would prompt him to be interested in reading a story about someone else trying to figure life out.
I would have also said that women who like gear and mountains and outdoors stuff would like the book as well.
Had I seen the book and made those guesses I would have only been partly right...(perhaps one of life's most important and first learned lessons, 'don't judge a book by it's cover!', not that I was judging so much as making inferences, but maybe that's the same thing sometimes!)
This book is really for anyone who loves a good story, particularly a good true story. It's for anyone who enjoys memoir because of the comfort found in reading the ups and downs of another person's life because you realize that no matter who you are or what you do, life is simply full of ups and downs.
In this book the author, Paul Stutzman is starting at a pretty low point...he has lost his wife to breast cancer and as a way to cope with the loss decided to pursue a life long desire-- to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, all 2,176 miles of it (a feat that takes close to 5 months!). Something that only 1 in 4 people who start out, and intend to "thru-hike", wind up finishing. According to the AT's website, just over 12,600 people have completed the entire trail since 1936 when the first hiker was recorded. However, some of those are section hikers (about 25%) who do sections of the trail over periods of time as opposed to "thru-hikers", who do it all at once, which puts Stutzman and other AT thru-hikers in a category of their own.
Though a restaurant manager by trade prior to his hiking of he AT, it is evidenced by this book that Stutzman is a natural born story teller-- I found myself looking forward to each chapter, staying up late to finish sections of the book and feeling fully invested in the journey our narrator is taking us on. His journey-- to find peace, freedom from the trappings of the world, a reconnection to God and His creation as he physically journeys over and through incredibly varied landscapes and conditions.
What I loved about the book was the way Stutzman weaves so many interesting tidbits and details about the AT into a story about healing and committment to a goal. I learned about backpacks and sleeping bags, snoring trail mates and the importance of good rain gear. I learned about needing a trail manager and about trail magic. I learned that there is an entire culture of people and businesses and relationships formed along this 13 state trail that runs from Georgia to Maine.
There are so many interesting stories about the people that Stutzman meets along the way, well intentioned plans for making progress that are foiled by weather and blisters and wrong turns (all very much metaphors for life if you think about it!), and the beauty and lessons observed in everyday pieces of nature like dandelions..."Surely the dandelion knows secrets of stubborn survival that the giant trees we had seen toppled in the smokies did not."
I love a book that compels me to keep reading the story (a hefty challenge these days with so much competing for my time!) and that makes me feel smarter by the time I'm done because I've learned some really great information about a part of life that I didn't know a whole lot about prior to reading the book.
Stutzman has two primary goals in sharing his story that he reveals at the end of the book: 1) "To remind men (and women) to appreciate what they have-- to not take their families for granted" and 2) To communicate to people that the Christian life "doesn't have to be boring."
I think he accomplishes his goals in the writing of this book. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to read a good story, and particularly to those asking questions of God, who love the outdoors and who want to come away with a bigger appreciation for some of the "smaller" things in life.
(Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book, and no other compensation, in exchange for an honest review.)