Thoughts on Waking Up On The Appalachian Trail
Updated: Jun 21
Review: Waking Up On The Appalachian Trial by N.B Hankes
’To question the institution of America’s military and its geopolitical mission has nothing to do with questioning the valor and heroism of the American soldier. The sacrifices of these young men and women are real and their medals honorable. It’s a political convenience to ignore such nuance and absolves American leadership from having to disclose the truth.’ (Waking Up On The Appalachian Trail: N.B Hankes)
’Not only that, but I had always felt uncomfortable in my skin and felt compelled to present a version of myself that wasn’t me.’ (Waking Up On The Appalachian Trail: N.B Hankes)
“It’s a bit of a paradox: We produce to survive, yet it’s this production that threatens our survival.” (Waking Up On The Appalachian Trail: N.B Hankes)
**Trigger warnings: Extracts of some real life military experience including loss of life..**
N.B Hankes tells his own memoir of walking the length of the Appalachian trail following his tour in Iraq as part of the US military. He finds himself facing the challenges of the trail with adverse weather, brutal terrain and issues with his own health, whilst also trying to come to terms with his experiences within the military. He finds himself asking if his mission overseas was honourable?
A coming of age story meets philosophical discussion with grit and reflection thrown in. What others have said
“Like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Waking Up On the Appalachian Trail is a tale of transformation and emergence from trauma and confusion into something closer to insight and clarity. Hankes writes from the heart, and his story is both powerful and important. I hope this book finds the large, passionate audience it deserves.’ — Chris Ryan, Ph. D., author of Civilised to Death: The Price of Progress and host of the Tangentially Speaking podcast.
Nate Hankes’ memoir is the perfect metaphor for the path that leads each of us from ignorance, fear, and suffering to true freedom, reconciliation, and awakening. This book will change your life.”—Darren Main, author of Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic What did I think?
This is a book that I would not have necessarily found if it hadn‘t been for the opportunity through Netgallery and the books publisher. They allowed me to read this book in exchange for the an honest review and for this I am hugely grateful.
I did enjoy it as a read and whilst some sections I found to be page turning and I really got into the story and Nate’s reflections. I did find that I had to be careful where I stopped reading for the night as there were sections that were less captivating and I was not so keen to pick it back up again. That said, despite having a really busy time at work including weekends, it did only take me one week to read it and I didn’t read every night.
I feel like this book had a huge amount of potential and slightly missed the mark in some places.
Maybe because my expectations were so high but also because it was tackling some big things and therefore, may have been set up to fail slightly. We have a coming of age story, the hiking of a legendary trail that is the stuff of legend and then the reflections concerning both the Iraq war as well as war in general which becomes a reflection on society itself. These are all big subjects in themselves and if you think about it one of them is enough of a theme for most books.
I understand that this book is a memoir and who am I to say what someone’s own story should be, however, as a book to read for pleasure I wish that more focus had been given to the themes and if this had meant less focus was given to other sections then so be it - I think I could have lost the coming of age sections for more exploration concerning Nate’s experiences within Iraq, why he made the decision to leave the army and reflection upon the purpose of war. I liked the characters within the book and it was nice to hear briefly about their struggles and motivations but again I would have liked to hear more about them.
All this being said, this is a book to read- it’s an interesting read and there are some really profound sections in it that really did get me thinking. I can think of people I would recommend it too but it’s not a book I would tell everyone to read.
Star rating: 3* (out of 5)
Will I read it again?: Unlikely, on the basis that as I did not fully cover all it’s themes, I feel like there is not anything I have missed. However, I would open it again to get some quotes out from the philosophical sections are profound.