Waking Up on the Appalachian Trail: A Story of War, Brotherhood, and the Pursuit of Truth (BooksGoSocial, 2020)
By N.B. Hankes
Got insomnia? Forget Sominex. This snoozefest will put you to sleep in a foot fall.
Waking Up supposedly chronicles an Army vet’s hike with his brother along the Appalachian Trail as the author looks for “time in the wilderness” to help provide “answers and clarity” regarding his time in Iraq, or… something. (I’m deliberately not linking to it. You’re welcome.)
But this isn’t a hiking book or a trail tome. It’s not even much of a “memoir.” Most of Waking Up is just a convenient springboard for a slow roll into a slathering left-wing socio-economic harangue of Springer Mountain proportions. Indeed, a sizeable slice of the book is spent alternately blasting society for its alleged greed and corruption and blaming everyone else on planet earth for the author’s own lack of preparation, planning, and poor choices.
Stroll Into Somnambulance
Just when you think this stroll into somnambulance can’t get any more tedious or tiresome, enter “counter culture Dylan.” He’s a hiking buddy and patron saint of weed, suds, and all things cynical and self-centric. This guy’s Pecksniffian sermonizing takes up pages and pages, straining credulity and attention to the breaking point.
Indeed, the story quickly spirals into a monotonous, monochrome rant. Think leaky faucet. Yawn.
Stilted and Smarmy
The writing is also stilted and smarmy in places, to the point of maudlin. It chases the rim edge of rudderless and anchorless so often, you forget where you’re going or why. And you don’t really care:
- “Pavlovian angst” and “imagines (sic) of pizza”?
- “Recreational negativity” and “patriotic arrogance”?
- “In my increasing moments of clarity, I observed myself attempting to be like everyone else- engaged and outgoing – not the reclusive bookworm perpetually straining to appear interested in the cultural vapidity around me.”
Seriously? (Like that’s not patronizing or anything.)
Additionally, the title is a bit misleading. Nate and Ben’s Excellent Pothead Adventure to Springer Mountain is more accurate. Or Noam Chomsky, Lyme Disease and Too Much Ramen. Maybe A Torturous Hiking History with Howard Zinn.
In the final analysis, this book isn’t a “wake up” call to anything. It’s as inspiring as an overcooked cabbage and makes watching paint peel seem exciting.
I had to force myself to finish this snoozer. It’s not a hiking memoir. It’s a plywood bully pulpit for Saint Dylan, liberally coated with 2,000+ miles of trail dust, wildcat moonshine and tokes. It’s also political propaganda sprinkled with garrulous, insipid accounts of the physical hardship and discomfort of long distance backpacking when you’re woefully under-prepared and don’t have Clue 1 WTH you’re doing. (Edward Abbey? Really? Oh. In a moment of “cosmic revelation,” the author also decides he’s God. Good luck with that one.)
If I spent moola on this pile of horse hooey, I’d want a refund.
Finally, Waking Up may work as a private journal. But as a book? Well. Pass the No Doze. And don’t waste your time.