A Father-Son Journey of Discovery
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Another I-survived-the-Grand-Canyon memoir, but one with a twist. Patton, a sociologist well known among social-service workers for his writings on program evaluation and research, seems not to have met a New Age idea that he doesn’t like. Through the pages of this well-written book, he tests many of those ideas on his 18-year-old son, with whom he undertook a coming-of-age backpacking journey into the heart of the Grand Canyon a few years ago. Using the voyage as a means of talking about life’s big questions is an old strategy—in the instance of the Grand Canyon, we’ve already got William Calvin’s The River That Flows Uphill, a meditation on neuroscience and evolution—but Patton gives it a fresh turn with his apparent innocence and willingness to question anything and everything. Readers of a hard-nosed, hardcore wilderness-experience bent won’t much like Patton’s constant adverting to core New Age texts like Robert Bly’s Iron John and C.G. Jung’s Myth and Symbol, his readiness to bang bongo drums and press innocent animals into service as totems for his latter-day vision quest, but they’re not Patton’s core audience. Instead, he seems to be writing for men who are at something of a loss as to how to talk to their teenage sons, and in this matter he is a sympathetic and reassuring guide who sets a wise and reflective example. In one passage, for instance, Patton writes of watching his son sleep after a hard day of scrambling through broken rock and deep gorges and becoming “deeply conscious of how few extended and uninterrupted conversations we had had in his whole life. Times when TV didn’t force us to fit whatever dialogue we could into the space of commercials. Times when the telephone didn’t interrupt.” Fortunately for Patton, he was able to make time for those conversations, and it’s a pleasure to eavesdrop. File this under parenting, not outdoor adventure.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-57392-266-8
Page count: 330pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1999