Hiking Through by Paul Stutzman is the story of one man's journey on the Appalachian trail, through grief, and to understanding about God. Stutzman spent his life working at a restaurant to make enough money for he and his wife to enjoy when he retired. Unfortunately, his wife, Mary, died of breast cancer, and he was left along and struggling with guilt, grief, and depression. He decided to fulfill a life-long dream of hiking the entire Appalachian trail, all 2,176 miles and fourteen states as a way to find God and to spread his message to husbands to cherish their families and take time to enjoy them. God hijacked Stutzman's journey and gave him a very different message, one that the author shares with readers about hope and trusting in God. I've always had a fascination with the Appalachian trail, and as my illness keeps me from ever fulfilling it, I enjoy reading about others' experiences on it. Stutzman's writing is part travelogue, part journal, part devotional. He does a great job of allowing readers to see through his eyes the beauty he witnessed in God's creation: the storms, the butterflies, the majestic mountaintops. He doesn't just stop to smell the flowers; he tastes them! Stutzman shares many stories about small miracles on the trail, strange coincidences that have God's fingerprints all over them, and he encourages readers to seek out God on their own journey and see what He has to tell them. One of the most powerful messages Stutzman has for readers is that of trusting God in the midst of grief. Here's my own coincidence: I signed up for this blog tour months ago, never knowing that I would need to read a book on grief. But last week Saturday, my dog Cooper was hit and killed by a car. I would never consider weighing the loss of a dog with that of a spouse, but my grief and pain is very real, and I've been struggling all week with the question of "Why, God? Why?" Toward the end of the book, Stutzman stops writing about the trail and for a few paragraphs addresses this very question in such a way that I couldn't help but sob, and then began to feel some peace. He's a great plainspoken writer with a gift for detail and self-deprecation that keeps readers hooked for mile after mile. God gave Stutzman a mission on that trail, and he fulfills it well with this book. I hope he decides to take another journey someday and take the rest of us along with his again.
Hiking Through: One Man's Journey to Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail
- Paul Stutzman
About the Book:
A life-changing journey begins with a single step. After Paul Stutzman lost his wife to breast cancer, he sensed a tug on his heart--the call to a challenge, the call to pursue a dream. With a mixture of dread and determination, Paul left his job, traveled to Georgia, and took his first steps on the Appalachian Trail. What he learned during the next four and a half months changed his life--and can change yours as well.
In Hiking Through, you'll join Paul on his remarkable 2,176-mile trip through fourteen states in search of peace and a renewed sense of purpose. Along the way, you'll meet fascinating and funny people, experience trail magic, and discover that every choice we make on the path has consequences for the journey. More than that, you'll come away with a new understanding of God's grace and guidance--even in the smallest things.
When the book arrived, I wondered, Ã¢â¬ËWhat was I thinking? I don't care that much about hiking! Why did I want read about more than 2000 miles worth? But than I remembered. It's a true story and I was intrigued with this so-called Ã¢â¬Ëjourney to peace and freedom'. Thus, I soon found myself on the trail with Paul or Apostle, as he's known on the trail, and his companions. While the others were properly attired in hiking gear, I was geared with only Ã¢â¬ËHiking Through', blissfully soaking up this pilgrimage from an easy chair. Nevertheless, in spirit, I hiked through sun and storm, battled blisters and beheld breath-taking scenery, climbed and coasted, and along the way was inspired by Paul and his trail friends. (I never did come up with a trail name for myself, though.) Along the way I appreciated Paul sprinkling the path with wonder and wit, "Just the two of us walked that Sunday - the Creator of the universe and me, worshiping in His grand cathedral. I didn't enjoy God's choice of music that morning; all around me, cicadas were screaming."
Through Ã¢â¬ËApostle' Paul's vivid and entertaining storytelling, I also got an excellent feel of what it's like to hike the Appalachian Trail - it made me want to hike part of it but also determine I have no desire to Ã¢â¬Ëthru-hike', ever. Even with Ã¢â¬Ëtrail magic' and being completely surrounded by the grandeur of nature.
The highlight of this hike was to watch Paul emerge from his valley of pain and frustration to summit his mountain of peace and freedom. Over the time it took to complete the AP, God used nature, harsh conditions, solitude and some fascinating people to give this Apostle a renewed zeal for life; "I saw and felt what life is truly about: families, togetherness, unity, acceptance, respect, and love for God. Those ingredients build strong spines to do what's right in any situation."
"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group".
After suffering the loss of his wife to cancer, Paul Stutzman gave up his career in the restaurant business to pursue a longtime dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail. In his book, "Hiking Through", the reader will not only accompany him on his physical journey, but on his spiritual journey as well.
This book has appeal for different types of readers on different levels. For those who dream of hiking the trail ( or those who already have), for lovers of the outdoors, people who seek adventure if only from the safety of their armchair, this is the perfect book. For those who have lost someone and find it difficult to heal, this book will speak to them. And for those who have ever questioned, "Why, God?" in any situation, this book will be helpful to them, as well.
I try to write book reviews from an impersonal view, but it would be impossible for me to do so this time. For a long time, I have been fascinated with the AT, but for health reasons, will probably never make the trip. So, I lived vicariously through his experiences. His Mennonite background was interesting to me, as he is from "Amish Country" in Ohio, and I have traveled there on various occasions. And, like I suppose everyone, I have sometimes looked at situations and wished for answers that didn't seem to come.
His story, while at times so emotional and personal, is laced with humor. Just when you feel that you're going to have to reach for a Kleenex, he relates an experience that causes you to laugh out loud. The chapter in which he discusses his religious background was one of my favorites. The debate over whether or not to have a television in the house was topped only by the car radio anecdote.
In short, whether you need answers, or you just need a good read and a good laugh, this book will do the trick. On a scale of 1 to 5 hikers, I would give this one a 6.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Baker Publishing Group <http://www. BakerPublishingGroup.com > book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."