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Not so much walking, more thinking
on 23 June 2012
This one turned out slightly different to what I have expected, given the blurb on the back, I thought the book would be mainly about Schooler's trip, but I realised by the time I had reached half way into the book, and Schooler had yet to start his walk, that there was more to this than simply the telling of the tale. Ultimately, this is because Schooler's trip, in itself, is only a week or so long, not really a great undertaking that can hold a full length narrative together. And, to be honest, not much really happens (well apart from... but that would be spoilers!). But that doesn't mean this isn't an interesting and enjoyable read. Schooler uses the walk as a platform to relate stories of many who have lived and travelled through this area, bringing the wilderness alive with memories of human passage. Towards the end of the book, Schooler observes a flock of sandpipers, and comes to an understanding of the power of continuity. Facing his own demons which had led him to this point, he realises: "It does not matter if we are forgotten; what matters is the effect we have on those around us, and those who come after us. What matters is how our lives affect the larger, perpetual community of the living." It is a touching moment in a book that is as much about Schooler as it is the vast wilderness in which he seeks to walk. In seeing this, Schooler sets off to "walk home", more aware now of the true meaning of this idea. Schooler writes engaging history, and lays his soul bare at times painfully, but for me overall, the thinness of the actual narrative of the walk itself left me wanting something more from this book than it offered.