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Friday, April 23, 2010

Hiking Through...Review

About the book:
After losing his wife to breast cancer, Paul Stutzman decided to make some big changes. He quit his job of seventeen years and embarked upon a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, a 2,176-mile stretch of varying terrain spanning fourteen states. During his nearly five-month-long hike, he battled brutal trail conditions and overwhelming loneliness, but also enjoyed spectacular scenery and trail camaraderie. With breathtaking descriptions and humorous anecdotes from his travels, Stutzman reveals how immersing himself in nature and befriending fellow hikers helped him recover from a devastating loss. Somewhere between Georgia and Maine, he realized that God had been with him every step of the way, and on a famous path through the wilderness, he found his own path to peace and freedom.

Normally when I discover that a book has no negative reviews, I'm very skeptical. I know how unrealistic it is to think that every reader will adore every book the same way. When it comes to Hiking Through, however, I can understand why every review I've seen, so far, has been 4 or 5 stars. It's terrific.

I'm not an outdoorsy person. I hate camping and I hyperventilate at the thought of aerobic exercise, although I do enjoy walking. I've done, and mostly enjoyed, short hikes here and there over the course of my life, and I walked all over Rome and Florence and Paris, but I cannot fathom hiking 2,220 arduous miles over mountainous terrain. Yet, Paul's account of his experience hiking the Appalachian Trail makes me want to go hiking myself. (My boys will be so happy!)

I could not put this book down. To say it was engrossing is an understatement. It was absolutely enthralling. Reading Hiking Through was like sitting with Paul and listening to him tell his story. He's a captivating, articulate, storyteller and his writing style is easy and comfortable. There are no pretenses, no airs. He's straight-forward about his experiences, he's honest in sharing his grief over losing his wife, he's open about his faith in God, and he paints a fascinating picture with his words. I enjoyed his ability to weave his life experiences into the account; they weren't digressions, they were natural additions to the flow of the story.

Paul is honest about his regrets and realization that he needed something to help him move past his grief and find himself and his purpose again. On the trail, he realized that his purpose is to share his story and to remind people that God is very much aware of them and not to take their wives and families for granted. This is such an important message and one that is easy to overlook.

I loved the commentary, I loved the descriptions. I found hope in so many ways, one of which was in the assurance that there are so many, many good people in this world and that when we judge others from appearance or first impressions, we often miss the opportunity to know wonderful, kind people. Paul shares his experiences with those he met and traveled with on the trail, their camaraderie and friendship, and the joy in finding trail magic. I think that if we could apply the concept of trail magic and helping others, into our own lives, we would be so much richer and happier.

I wish that I'd read this with a high-lighter. There were so many times I read a passage or thought that I wanted to mark and remember. I know that I will definitely reread this and next time I will have that high-lighter handy. I just have to wait until my 11-year old son finishes reading it first!

Thanks to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Paul V. Stutzman here. You can find additional tour stops and reviews here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/10

* * * * *
5/5 Stars


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