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Posted November 1, 2013
Reviewed by Karen Pirnot for Readers' Favorite
In Summoning the Mountains, Pilgrimage into Forty, author Amy Allen treats the reader to a trek along the Appalachian Trail. Taking the trail name of Willow, the author arranges for her ex-husband to care for her two sons while she undertakes a six-month hike from Georgia to Maine, taking nothing but a backpack. Willow is approaching forty and she wants to find some type of meaning to life that has eluded her for years. The responsibilities of her job and her children have left her unfulfilled and she believes that by getting in touch with nature, she will again reestablish a sense of purpose to her life. He ex-husband drives her to Springer Mountain, Georgia, where she will begin the hike which she hopes will transform her view of life. She keeps a journal along the way and the journal has formed the basis for the book.
I enjoyed the descriptions of the sites along the trails as well as the people Willow met while hiking. The trials and tribulations of attempting to survive on rations and a small tent and minimal medical supplies were stories to which all serious hikers might relate. When Willow was forced to stop in order to heal a leg injury, readers will empathize and then cheer, as Willow again takes up the journey. I did find that I wanted more of Willow's inner thoughts about how the trek itself affected her. It was, after all, the basis of the book. But it appeared that at the end, many question remained unanswered. It was fun to see the sons enthusiastic about joining in the journey and, all in all, this was a book that many will want to read, hoping to find the motivation to begin their own journey into unknown fulfillment.
Posted October 4, 2013
I want to thank you for taking me on your journey. At times I felt I was with you, at others would find myself cheering you on as you faced difficulties. The education I received about the Appalachian Trail alone is worth the read. As I write this, I want to say more but my thoughts would only give away some of the wonders and lesions contained in "Summoning the Mountains". Throughout the book you were able to bring out different emotional states in me and in the end, a smile. I'm recommending this book to anyone looking for story about adventure, overcoming adversity, determination and the great outdoors.
May you always have the peace of the trail.................................Patrick Henry
Posted August 6, 2013
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The image of black balloons with “Over the hill” printed on them didn’t deter Amy Allen. Instead the anticipation of turning forty inspired her to go over mountains. She set for herself the ambitious goal of hiking the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. Alone.
Now, I’m only good for a three–hour hike, four hours at the most, so I didn’t read her memoir, Summoning the Mountains, as preparation for setting a similar goal. I read it for the pleasure of getting caught up vicariously in an experience I’ll never have. I also like to read about ordinary women doing extraordinary acts—though Amy proved herself to be anything but an ordinary woman. The book tells of day-to-day pleasures, such as spotting a rare butterfly, the hospitality of locals along the way, making friends with other thru-hikers. And of hardships: blisters on her feet, a whole day of pouring rain, days without a shower.
What makes this memoir a particular good read is that we are privy to Amy’s personal struggles as she hikes. For the trek taking her from Georgia to Maine is the backdrop for a spiritual journey. She’s seeking direction for her future: her relationships with an ex-husband and teen-age sons, her desire for a clear career goal.
She also writes with honesty about her impulse to quit when the challenge gets too tough, to catch a ride back to North Carolina. But it is the not-quitting and reaching her goal after six months that allows Amy to celebrate her triumph over hardship. And what greater gift can a forty-year-old woman receive (or earn) than a sense of her own strength?