ME AND THE BOY: Journey of Discovery: Father and Son on the Appalachian Trail by Paul Hemphill

ME AND THE BOY: Journey of Discovery: Father and Son on the Appalachian Trail

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A touching essay of a last-ditch effort of a father and son to get to know each other by hiking the 2,140 mile Appalachian Trail together. Hemphill (The Sixkiller Chronicles, The Good Old Boys, The Nashville Sound) was at rock bottom when this idea took fruit. His 48-year-old body was ravaged by alcoholism and his mind was wracked by the guilt of having run off on his 10-year-old only son, David. Now, David was 19, and financed by Macmillan's advance for this book, they outfitted themselves for one of the more vigorous physical trials available to modern man. Unfortunately, the hike quickly takes on some sobering aspects. Not to mention the nightly pestering of mice in the trail shelters, or the daytime harassment of good ol' boys, or the occasional bear in the Smokies, the elder Hemphill is plagued by knee trouble that relegates him to bed for weeks at a time. This, in turn, jeopardizes the book project, as David must be at college to begin the freshman term by late August. As a result, they must jump large chunks of the trail in order to reach Mount Katahdin in Maine by then. However, 400 miles from their objective, Hemphill finally is forced to give in to the reality of his knee, and the two disappointed hikers bus it back to Birmingham, Alabama. The engaged reader experiences a sort of emotional merry-go-round reading this tale of disappointment and waiting for some glimmer of hope. But things go from bad to worse--after their failure, Paul reverts to drink while David flunks out. So why, one may ask, submit the reader to this chronicle of despair? Because there is another journey going on beneath it all, a journey of discovery between father and son, and that journey is a success. Little by little, the two come to a realization of their mutual love and need. We are left feeling that, though losing their physical objective, they gained each other for life. Hemphill's work merits continued watching.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1986
Publisher: Macmillan