John Morris needs a change in his life. His relationship ends, and his job bores him witless. He is searching for something to fill the gap. Could a life-affirming hike along the Appalachian Trail’s 2000-plus miles be the answer? Inspired by his father’s experience of having hiked a stretch of the now legendary trail (and wanting to achieve something he felt his father would be proud of), he sets off with all the necessary – and unnecessary – equipment. The result is an exhilarating experience that begins in Volume One of his account of a personal journey: The World We Left Behind: A Journey from Georgia to Maine.
The World We Left Behind is instantly engaging, and Morris ensures that his account does not play second fiddle to other books on a similar theme (A Walk in the Woods, Hiking Through, AWOL on the Appalachian Trail etc.), but takes its place quite rightly alongside them. His style is really fresh and very human – this is a tale of an ordinary guy aware of his own shortcomings, and always willing to learn. Against all the odds he forges ahead with his plan to conquer the great American wilderness, flying in the face of the cynicism and doubt some of his friends send his way. His determination to conquer the depression that had begun to take over his life would propel “Morris the Cat” through the whole experience with no regrets.
Morris displays a keen eye for detail in every descriptive passage and brings raw nature to life. His dedication in having kept a journal throughout his long hike is admirable, and gives the reader a real insight into the hardships and rewards of life out there on the Trail. Dialogue is sharp and involving, and the characters he meets leap off the page. The reader will feel drawn in to the whole experience due to the atmospheric and colorful picture Morris paints. (And it is easy to relate to a man who dreams of junk food while lying in wet clothes on cold, hard ground!). The volume is well edited and clearly set out, with some well chosen photographs included.
Some readers may feel that this account of hiking the AT offers little that is new – this book doesn’t contain any really hair-raising situations or grand moments of suspense. Neither is it a guide to the AT, or an official tome full of advice for the would-be thru-hiker. Turning a reflective, personal journal into three volumes of published memoirs is a tricky concept, and Morris’ decision to do this may not pay off for some readers.
However, the written style carries the reader along effortlessly – there are some emotional moments, and humor and honesty throughout. It is a page-turner to the end of the volume. Did “Morris the Cat” finish the whole length of the Trail? Watch this space for the next two installments and cheer him on: he deserves to make it.
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