Not quite halfway through his journey to walk from Seattle to Key West, Alan Christoffersen departs Custer, South Dakota, searching for the “hope that life might still be worth living and for the grace to accept” what he must live without.
The beginning of the leg of his journey from South Dakota to St. Louis does not start off well. A desperate woman doggedly follows him for more than 100 miles. She trails behind and shows up at every stop along the way, pleading to talk with him. But Alan does not want to listen to anything she has to say. The lady refuses to give up, even if it means she will die from dehydration or exhaustion. Through his encounter with her, Alan gains insight into how resentment can burden the soul.
"[T]he strength of the book --- and what strikes a chord with me --- is Evans’ ability to evoke strong emotions while delivering bits of wisdom along the way."
As Alan continues his journey from Mount Rushmore, to Sturgis, to the Badlands and beyond, bouts of debilitating dizziness delay his progress. An elderly Jewish Polish man comes to his aid and teaches him an unforgettable lesson about freedom and the power of forgiveness.
Passing through Nebraska and Iowa, Alan reflects on the timelessness of that region’s contributions to the “American cultural pot.” In St. Joseph, Missouri, he is struck by the city’s beautiful architecture and takes a break to soak up the atmosphere of what was the starting point of the Pony Express and the end of the line for Jesse James.
Continuing through Missouri along U.S. Route 36, Alan confirms his theory that small towns are incubators for some of the world’s greatest people and ideas. He is impressed by the list of famous Americans who changed the world and whose roots began along that small stretch of American highway. Traveling from Hannibal to St. Louis, Alan’s trip takes a turn for the worse. By story’s end, his health and journey are uncertain.
THE ROAD TO GRACE is the third volume in Richard Paul Evans’ The Walk series. This slim edition is a quick read with an important message. However, I found the writing to be uneven; the repetitive dialogue and extensive lists, including pages of what feels like an ad campaign for a drugstore, slow down the action and detract from the story. Still, the strength of the book --- and what strikes a chord with me --- is Evans’ ability to evoke strong emotions while delivering bits of wisdom along the way. THE ROAD TO GRACE should appeal to the author’s many fans, as well as readers yearning for a novel that delivers a message of healing and forgiveness, and a curiosity of what lies ahead.
Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt on May 25, 2012
The Road to Grace