I recently received an email from a literary publicist. In a perfect world she would have been writing to beg me to write a book so she could promote it worldwide, but funnily enough, she was writing to ask me to review a book that was written by someone else.
After I got over my initial disappointment, I thought why not? Soon enough a large package came in the mail. I love getting packages in the mail, so that in itself was fun. Inside was a lovely big hardcover book called, Hiking Through by Paul Stutzman.
I’m not sure how she decided I should be one of the people reviewing this book, but maybe she did some homework. Stutzman, like me, was raised Mennonite. The difference was that he was first born into an Amish family in Ohio, who then switched to the Mennonite world. Actually, the real difference was that his religion mostly stuck with him, though this book is in part about his struggle with his beliefs.
His story is about walking the 2, 176 miles of the Appalachian Trail. But the concurrent story is that he’s doing this after his wife of 32 years dies of breast cancer, he quits his restaurant manager job and decides he wants to examine the rules he’s been following all his life. As well, he wants to warn other men out there not to take their wives and families for granted.
There is probably more of a Christian message than I would normally be interested in, but he does it with such humbleness and honesty and with none of the usual proselytizing, that it just makes it easier to connect to his very human struggle to come to some sort of truth that works for him.
I enjoyed following Paul through those mountain passes, over rocky trails and chowing down on huge cheeseburgers whenever he deked off the trail for a little civilizing comforts.
At one hot and dusty section of the trail, he indulges in the first beer of his life. I loved his honest struggle with all that he had held so dear, up until that moment, as the ‘proper rules of conduct’.
By the end of the book, I knew that he’d be a great guy to sit and talk to, though I’m pretty sure that it would still be over a coffee. But I’m good with that…it seems we do share a few things… I never really became a big fan of beer either.