Walks with Sam: A Man, a Dog, and a Season of Awakening (Roundfire Books, August 2020)
He had me at “dog” and “walk.” But the rest of this book is so absorbing and delightful, it’s like wading into eddies of grace and riding ‘em into deep water.
Walks With Sam isn’t another “dog book.” It’s more of a journey of self-discovery. Or maybe re-discovery. The author, age 60, is on sabbatical from Columbia College, Chicago. He begins his regular “mini adventures” in neighborhood walks with his beloved dog, Sam. Along the way he asks, “What might we learn from each other, find out about ourselves, and when this season of walking is behind us, who will we be?”
Walks With Sam provides some answers.
Style & Substance
With great skill and literary dexterity, the author eloquently captures “the beauty and redemptive power of a contemplative walk, and especially a walk with one’s dog.” You feel as if you’re at their side, tagging along.
Lucid and lithe, the text glides effortlessly from one walk and setting to the next. The writing is top-notch, brimming with warmth and full-bodied flavor. It’s as crisp and clear as an October night sky.
The author tosses out narrative bait at the beginning of each “walk” or chapter.: A pungent statement or musing. An aromatic observation or interrogatory. Then he skillfully reels us in, rounding out each chapter with relevant reflections from his walks and interactions with Sam.
Two favorite chapters are Walks 14 and 15, Rain and Summer, respectively. In crisp, lyrical prose the author offers gentle insights into a wide variety of experiences and observations. A steaming summer in Chicago. (Does anyone run through sprinklers anymore?) Patience. Mindfulness. Reunions and remembering. Wanting what’s out of reach. Joy. Forgiveness. Woodstock and Watergate and walks in the rain. Jacques Cousteau. The difference between alone and lonely. In-the-moment-ness that dogs know so thoroughly and do so well.
And Now We Rest – Tissue, Please?
The final chapter is Walk 31 – And Now We Rest. The author’s sabbatical is at an end. He peers over the observations and lessons of the past four months of walks with Sam and pens a galaxy of glittering word pictures while ruminating on art, aging, relationships, and nature. Much more. Indeed, the final chapter is wistful and bittersweet. Candid, poignant, and thoughtful. “You are what you do.”
I didn’t want it to end. Will someone kindly pass the tissue?
For more wonderful dog-centric stories, see: Why ‘Rainbow Bridge’ Will Melt Your Heart.
P.S.: Be sure to read the Acknowledgements. They’re golden.
P.S.S.: Walks With Sam strays into PCville a little too often. However, I loved the bulk of this book so much, I’m willing to overlook the occasional detour. Just don’t make it a habit, okay?