Thursday, June 10, 2010

Book Review : Hiking Through

Title : Hiking Through - Finding Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail
Author : Paul V. Stutzman
Publisher : Synergy Books
ISBN : 978-0-9840760-5-5

When I picked this book up to read, I was expecting a little drab memoir of trekking on the Appalachian Trail but I was glad to be proved wrong. One of a few books which succeeds in holding the attention of the readers right from page one till the last page. Generally this kind of engagement is felt in the books belonging to thriller or fiction genres, not very easily achieved by memoirs.

'Hiking Through' is a detailed chronicle of Paul's sojourn from grief to contentment, his search for peace and understanding God. What it took to be on the path to contentment and peace was the commitment to follow his heart. Having lost his wife Mary to cancer, Paul finds himself deeply grief stricken and hopelessly alone. When even after one year he could not come to terms with his loss, he decides to commence on his own healing process - setting out on the Appalachian Trail, a stretch of 2,176 miles, across 14 states, through all kinds of weathers and terrains. He started this uncertain journey aiming to heal himself and to convey a message to all people - 'not to take families and spouses for granted'.

Paul, who had many doubts and questions in his mind found the same doubts getting settled and questions getting answered as he progressed on AT. On this journey, he enjoyed the breathtaking vistas of nature while being able to remove clutter from his mind and stress that he had been carrying since ages. He could feel the presence of God besides him and realized that God has been there always, but with so much worries and distractions clogging the mind all the time, he could not listen to God even when He called upon his name. It is us who put obstacles between ourselves and the God and then keep looking for peace.

On the trail, the fellow hikers became his family and the hike became his life. Here he was able to understand the people and the messages they gave him which would go unnoticed or even unheard of in his everyday world. The physical body was experiencing exhaustion while his mind was enjoying the bliss of freedom from all shackles.

As he writes in the book, this trail does mirror Paul's spiritual journey. The book has been written straight from heart, revealing his true inner feelings, uncertainties and weaknesses to the readers without holding back anything. It is a treat for nature lovers and the people who seek peace and enlightenment. A good motivating guide for the people who are waiting for some future time to say something to their loved ones or to do something, for there may not be any tomorrow. I found it a perfect blend of being - a useful guide or handbook for future hikers, and a true journal of a person's spiritual odyssey. An easy, conversational style of writing makes the book an interesting read.

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