Put yourself in this situation: the love of your life is thrown from a horse, paralyzed from the waist down, and a month later finally gets to come home, only to die from complications. While you are caring for your love, sitting in the hospital by her bedside 24/7, caring and willing for her to get better, your trusted friend and partner in business rounds up all of your clients and leaves to start his own advertising agency. Your house is foreclosed on, vehicles repossessed, you are left with nothing. Worse than nothing, because the woman you loved and cherished more than anything in this world has been taken from you. Worse yet, she asked you to promise, on her last breath of life, to live. Time frame of this? Six weeks. In just six short weeks, life goes from perfection to devastation. Faced with this situation, what would you do?
For Alan Christoffersen, the answer came to him with a jolt. Walk. That's what he would do. Walk across the country. Finding a map, Alan spreads it out before him, examines it, and decides that Key West, Florida would be the farthest reach from his current residence of Seattle. Packing up a camping backpack, fastening on his highest quality hiking boots, Alan sets out on an unforgettable journey of the heart, soul and psyche.
I have always been an avid fan of Richard Paul Evans since I read Finding Noel. I have to admit that I have yet to read his foremost stand-out novel The Christmas Box, or the several novels shortly preceeding that, however I do plan to add those to my reading list as well. When asked for the name of an author whose writing will touch you, heart and soul, whose prose is beautiful, human, and will leave you looking at the world in an entirely different way, my answer is Richard Paul Evans. Mr. Evans has the talent and ability to reach within a mind and engulf a being with his words. The Walk is no exception.
In this latest work, Evans introduces readers to a young man on a journey to find himself. I knew once I began reading that I was going to fly through the pages until the very end. I was not wrong. As I read, I was flooded with many emotions: hope, grief, anger, sadness, courage, and wonder. The thought of losing absolutely everything, in one's life, is simply overwhelming. Sadly, I imagine this is an occurrence that takes place more than any of us are aware.
The characterization of Alan is a simple one – he could be most any man you met on the street. The characterization of others throughout the book are equally amazing and "real." One of my favorite characters, within the story, other than Alan, is a young waitress Alan meets on his journey. Her name is Ally and she works in a roadside diner and has had a not-so-easy life herself. That notwithstanding, Ally is a very strong person, who looks for the good in life. One such example is the following excerpt from page 217:
"Just before she died, McKale asked me to promise her that I would live."
She nodded. "I think we all have to make that choice. I meet dead people every day at the diner."
"What do you mean?"
"People who have given up. That's all death requires of us, to give up living."
I wondered if I was one of them.
"The thing is, the only real sign of life is growth. And growth requires pain. So to choose life is to accept pain. Some people go to such lengths to avoid pain that they give up on life. They bury their hearts, or they drug or drink themselves numb until they don't feel anything anymore. The irony is, in the end their escape becomes more painful than what they're avoiding."
I looked down for a while. "I know you're right. But I don't know if I can live without her. A part of me died with her."
"I'm so sorry," she said, rubbing my shin. After a moment she said, "You know, she's not really gone. She's still a part of you. What part of you is your choice. She can be a spring of gratitude and joy, or she can be a fountain of bitterness and pain. It is entirely up to you."
For me, this was a very powerful part in the book. I wanted to share that particular excerpt for that reason, but also to show readers the style and emotion that Richard Paul Evans uses in writing. There really is nothing about The Walk that I did not like. I do have to admit the fact that the main character, Alan, though having lost everything, does have the monetary means to get by on his journey, i.e., purchasing food, lodging, etc. I'm not really sure why this was a bit of a stickler to me, but perhaps because so many people in the world have absolutely nothing — including monetary means — what Alan is pursuing isn't as much of a hardship as taking a journey across the country without money would be. However, I think that if the author made Alan scrapping at the bottom of the the bucket, perhaps the impact of being wealthy, having everything and then losing it would not have made as much of an impact. That is just my take and it may be totally off. That is one of the great things about different people reading the same book – being able to take away and see things in different ways.
In any case, The Walk is a fabulous book that I highly recommend to each and every person. I truly cannot say enough about it. Keep in mind that The Walk is the first in a series of Evans' books about Alan's ongoing story. The second in the series is due out April 2011 and I absolutely cannot wait.
I easily give The Walk by Richard Paul Evans a 5/5 rating!
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