Sunday, December 23, 2012
Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail, reviewed
The lead character in Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail is Taz Chavis, recovering coke head and ex-con, who, while still in jail, is drawn to the idea of thru-hiking the nearly 2,200 mile length of the AT. Not only will it help him shake his drug habit--and the temptation of drugs that city life will offer--but it will cleanse his soul, allow him change into the man he wants to be. At least, that is the idea.
Once out of jail (and after tying up some loose ends), he hits the trail, out of shape but determined to change his life. Taz tells us, "For a moment I feel like an outsider, like I'm trespassing on hallowed ground, but hiking the AT is my dream and I'm not about to leave it anytime soon."
He befriends two other hikers who are trying to escape their own troubles: Richard, an alcoholic Blackfoot Indian who wants to avoid a lifetime working in his family business; and Simone, a woman with a "dark secret" who--even though she believes people can't change who they are--gives it one last shot to prove that she is wrong (or right) about this notion (and herself).
There are several chapters that involve side characters, people not hiking the Appalachian Trail, but who live close enough that they too feel its effect, its pull, its temptation to walk off into the woods and leave your troubles behind. But do you really leave them behind, or do they come with you, packed in your backpack with your water and GORP? This is the question that Taz and Richard and Simone will soon have answered.
T.J. Forrester's writing is clean, crisp, and cuts right through to the (sometimes black) heart of his characters. Take the journey with them--just stay away from the edge!