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A Walk Across America   book icon  
by Peter Jenkins (1979)

read: 15 February 2005
rating: [+]
category: uncategorized

Peter Jenkins had a hard time figuring out what he wanted to do with his life, so he walked across America. His story is a recognizable one. Kid grows up with privilege in Greenwich Connecticut, goes to an artsy college, feels that something is missing from his life. After a failed college marriage, Peter decides to load up his backpack and see the world. He heads out with his dog and a contract of sorts from National Geographic and a determination to meet people, get jobs when he needs money, and go from coast to coast. Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly, the book ends when he finds religion and meets a woman [in that order] and ther New Orleans to Colorado stretch is summed up as an afterword.

Some parts of this book work great. Jenkins' descriptions of the scenery and the people he meets seem very real and geniune and are the most pleasant part of the book. However, when he starts getting philosophical, including one embarassing moment where he sees himself in the mirror as “black” after spending a few weeks with a black family in Appalachia that he starts to call “my black family", the book drags. The naievete that he has towards other peoples' ideas about him, the difficulties in finding a job in some of the poorest regions in the country, and some of the trials he has to endure, are hard to read through without wanting to shake him. On the other hand, some of his observations and feeligns turn out to be glaringly incorrect, as when he lands in Alabama and meets Governor Wallace who turns out to be an okay guy in person despite his persona and crappy politics.

Peter Jenkins is a seeker who seems to have some sort of trouble figuring out what things mean in his life. He places a lot of power in his dig, his "forever friend” and then later in God after one evening at a tent revival, and then finally in the woman he meets in the last pages of the book. I know a lot of people like Peter so this book has a familiar, if not always agreeable, storyline to it.

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