Monday, March 12, 2012

And, Once Again, I'm Not a Fan ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

You may have noticed I'm not much for inspirational fiction. There's a reason for that. On the whole, I've found that books in this genre tend to be preachy, predictable and so ooey-gooey it's nauseating. No offense to those who adore this kind of thing, but personally, I keep my distance. Why, then, am I reviewing The Walk by Richard Paul Evans? Simple: The second volume in the series is one of this year's Whitney Award finalists. Because I have a serious case of reading OCD, I couldn't dive into the second book without jumping into the first. I didn't want to do either, mind you, but I did. That's just the kind of devoted, self-sacrificing contest judge I am. Uh huh.

Anyway, The Walk concerns 32-year-old Alan Christoffersen, a successful advertising executive who's enjoying the very best life has to offer. He's got a luxurious house, a zippy sports car, a beautiful wife, and a wall full of business honors and awards—all the trappings of a happy life. Or so Alan thinks. When tragedy strikes, his perfect world begans to crumble. As Alan watches everything that's important to him slip away, he becomes so grief-stricken and depressed that he contemplates suicide. Then he does something even crazier: he decides to walk from his home near Seattle all the way to sunny Key West, Florida.

As Alan tries to outwalk his grief, he gets a taste of the adventure, danger and exhaustion that comes from crossing so many miles on foot. But what about the clarity he was hoping to find from his extended nature walk? Is he gaining a new direction in life or just striding away from his problems? As Alan puts one foot in front of the other, he'll have to decide who he really is, what he really wants, and how far he'll really go (physically and metaphorically) to find the answers.

Preachy? Check. Predictable? Check. Ooey-gooey? Check, check, check. The Walk must, therefore, be inspirational fiction at its finest, right? Maybe, but what I found was a whole lot of tell-not-show storytelling, flat characters and underdeveloped relationships. Alan's idea to walk to Florida made no sense to me since he seemed to have no real, concrete motivation to do so. The biggest problem for me, though, was that, while there was enough going on in the beginning of the book to keep the story moving forward, the majority of the novel is spent on the road with Alan. Which would be okay if the details were interesting, but they're just not. Reading about every town he crosses into, every diner he enters, and every meal he inhales gets tedious and boring. I had to drag myself through it, kicking and screaming, until the end, when something exciting finally happened.

Although the book deals with grief, I have to say it is more uplifting than my usual reading fare. It's definitely a feel-good book, so if you like that kind of thing, you'll probably dig this one. But, for me, The Walk was too unrealistic, too saccharine and too preachy. The author, I think, was trying so hard to teach a powerful life lesson that he forgot how effectively that can be done through the subtleties of good storytelling. Which, come to think of it, is my absolute biggest beef with inspirational fiction. So, yeah, while I can appreciate the aim of this genre, I'm still just not a fan.

(Readalikes: The Walk: Miles to Go by Richard Paul Evans

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for mild language and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find

2 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. At least I'm not alone! The weird thing is, I feel like I SHOULD like these kinds of books—I mean, they're positive, uplifting, faith-affirming, etc., not depressing like so many other books—but meh, they're just not for me, you know?

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