Some readers want nice, gentle reads with happy endings. Others like the darker stuff. I’m of the latter persuasion, so while I know it’s good for me to read some gentle reads and inspirational fiction, it’s not at the top of the list of things I was looking forward to. That said, I have done my best to give Richard Paul Evans’ The Walk a fair chance.
The Walk is the riches-to-rags story of Alan Christofferson. Alan’s life is an enviable one at the beginning—he’s married to McKale, his childhood sweetheart, has a successful career in advertising, and wants for nothing. There’s a spot of money trouble due to his and McKale’s poor money management habits, but nothing catastrophic. Until McKale is in a terrible car accident, and Al’s partner stabs him in the back by stealing away their top clients to start his own firm. At rock bottom, Al considers ending his life, but a voice, at first possibly God’s but then sounding like McKale’s, tells him to live. When his home is repossessed, Al makes a drastic decision: to take to the road and walk to Florida, as far away on the map as he can get from Seattle. Along the way, a la Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven, his life intersects with and is affected by the people he meets.
This reminded me a lot of reading Nicholas Sparks—lots of melodrama. It seems a strange choice for inspirational writing at first, as the first third of the book is comprised of things getting steadily worse, but the walk is indeed a healing one. No doubt there are worse ways to deal with grief than hard physical exertion. A word of caution: readers interested in this tale will be committing to a series, as this one leaves off only partway through the planned journey. The books are, however, very quick reads that could each be devoured in a dedicated evening of reading.
Now then, my own cynical issues with this: like Sparks’ writing, I found the dialogue stilted and characterizations bland. I found the protagonist fundamentally difficult to identify with: even at his most broken and desperate, he had a friend sell off his remaining assets and put the money in an account, leaving him well enough to put a down payment on a smaller house in certain parts of the country. While he considers himself, down, out, and “homeless,” the truth of the matter is that he can stay in a hotel when he needs to and eat well on his way, a privilege many do not have; moreover, most people for whom tragedy strikes don’t have the luxury of just walking away from everything and not worrying about finances. Certainly, he went through a lot and deserved some time to heal (and the feeling of having his whole world taken out from under him by the loss of his beloved spouse is not something I contest at all), but there’s an implicit privilege to the manner in which he does it that I just couldn’t get past.
…and somehow I went from inspirational fiction to critiquing class and privilege. See? Not the genre for me.