Walking to Listen
In 2011, at 23, after his Watson fellowship proposal to study the ways indigenous communities “guided their young people into adulthood” was rejected, and after he lost his job on a fishing boat, Forsthoefel packed his bags, brought books by Whitman and Rilke, and walked down the train tracks near his mother’s Philadelphia home. Then, he kept walking, all the way to the Pacific. In this moving and deeply introspective memoir, Forsthoefel writes about the uncertainties, melodramas, ambiguities, and loneliness of youth while describing his trip, reaching out to strangers as he walks south toward Selma, and then west across Navajo lands, Death Valley, and the Sierras. Along the way, he meets widowers, waitresses, ranchers, veterans, reverends, mystics, glass blowers, delusional walkers, firefighters, Navajo drummers, artists, new fathers, and families who take him into their homes, sharing their rich and varied perspectives—and advice on living. Each conversation offers a glimpse into the vast range of American life. Forsthoefel’s walk becomes a meditation on vulnerability, trust, and the tragedy of suburban and rural alienation. His radical openness to the variety of American experience includes unflinching encounters with lingering racism in Alabama, for instance. Forsthoefel’s conversation with America is fascinating, terrifying, mundane, and at times heartbreaking, but ultimately transformative and wise. Agent: Daniel Greenberg, Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary. (Mar.)
This review has been corrected to reflect an updated publication date for the book--March instead of April.