What would you do if you lost everything—your job, your home, and the love of your life—all at the same time? When it happens to Seattle ad executive Alan Christoffersen, he’s tempted by his darkest thoughts. Instead, he decides to take a walk. But not any ordinary walk. Taking with him only the barest of essentials, Alan leaves behind all that he’s known and heads for the farthest point on his map: Key West, Florida. The people he encounters along the way, and the lessons they share with him, will save his life—and inspire yours.
A life-changing journey, both physical and spiritual, The Walk is the first of an unforgettable bestselling series of books about one man’s search for hope.
About the Author
Hometown:Salt Lake City, Utah
Date of Birth:October 11, 1962
Place of Birth:Salt Lake City, Utah
Education:B.A., University of Utah, 1984
Read an Excerpt
“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.”
Alan Christoffersen’s diary
According to legend, once the sand of Key West is in your shoes, you cannot go back from whence you came. It is true for me. I’m alone on the beach watching the blood-red sun baptized in the Gulf of Mexico. And there is no returning to what I left behind.
The air is saturated with the smells of salt water and kelp and the sounds of breaking waves and screeching seagulls. Some part of me wonders if this might be a dream and hopes I’ll wake in bed and find that I’m still in Seattle, and McKale is gently running her fingernails up and down my back. She would whisper, “Are you awake, my love?” I would turn to her and say, “You’ll never believe what I just dreamed.”
But it’s no dream. I’ve walked the entire length of the country. And the woman I love is never coming back.
The water before me is as blue as windshield wiper fluid. I feel the twilight breeze against my unshaven, sunburned face, and I close my eyes. I’ve come a long way to get here—nearly 3,500 miles. But, in ways, I’ve come much further. Journeys cannot always be measured in physical distance.
I slide the backpack off my shoulders and sit down on the sand to untie my shoes and pull off my socks. My threadbare, once white, now-gray cotton socks stick to my feet as I peel them off. Then I step forward on the wet, shell-studded sand and wait for the receding water to return and cover my feet. I’ve had hundreds of hours to think about this moment, and I let it all roll over me: the wind, the water, the past and present, the world I left behind, the people and towns along the way. It’s hard to believe I’m finally here.
After a few minutes, I go back and sit cross-legged in the sand next to my pack and do what I always do at the pivotal moments of my life: I take out a pen, open my diary, and begin to write.
My writing habit began long ago—long before this diary, long before my walk. The Christmas I was eight years old, my mother gave me my first diary. It was a small, yellow vinyl book debossed with deep flourishes. My favorite feature was its brass key and lock. It made me feel important to have something in my life of such consequence that I needed to lock it up from the world. That Christmas night was the first time in my life that I wrote in a diary. I figured with the lock and all, only I would be reading it, so I wrote the entry to myself, a habit I would continue the rest of my life.
Today is Christmas. I got a Rock’em Sockem Robots, a set of walky-talkys and red sweetish fish that I already ate. Mom gave me this diary with a lock and key and told me I should write every day. I asked her to write on my first page.
My Dear Son,
Thank you for letting me write in your special book. And Merry Christmas! It is a very special Christmas.
You will someday understand this. Every so often read these words and remember how much I love you and always will.
Mom says it doesn’t matter what I write and if I wait to write just the importent things then I’ll probly never write anything, because importent things just look like everything else except when you look back on them. The thing is to write what yor thinking and feelling. Mom looked better today. I think she’ll be better soon.
I’ve touched that writing so often that it’s barely legible. My mother’s entry was one of those events she spoke of, the kind that look like nothing except through time’s rearview mirror. My mother died from breast cancer forty-nine days later—on Valentine’s Day.
It was early in the morning, before I usually got up for school, that my father led me into the room to see her. On the nightstand next to her bed there was a single yellow rose in a bud vase and my homemade Valentine’s card, with a drawing of a heart with an arrow through it. Her body was there, but she wasn’t. She would have smiled and called to me. She would have praised my drawing. I knew she wasn’t there.
In my father’s typical stoic manner, we never spoke about her death. We never talked about feelings nor the things that gave rise to them. That morning he made me breakfast, then we sat at the table, listening to the silence. The people from the mortuary came and went, and my father managed everything with the steadiness of a business transaction. I’m not saying he didn’t care. He just didn’t know how to show his feelings. That was my father. I never once kissed him. That’s just the way he was.
The reason we start things is rarely the reason we continue them.
Alan Christoffersen’s Road Diary
I started writing in my diary because my mother told me to. After her death, I continued because to stop would be to break a chain that connected me to her. Then, gradually, even that changed. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the reason I wrote was always changing. As I grew older, I wrote as proof of my existence. I write, there-
fore I am.
I am. In each of us, there is something that, for better or worse, wants the world to know we existed. This is my story—my witness of myself and the greatest journey of my life. It began when I least expected it. At a time when I thought nothing could possibly go wrong.
© 2010 RICHARD PAUL EVANS
What People are Saying About This
Hoda and I both thoroughly enjoyed this book . . . The Walk is beautifully written.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for The Walk includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Richard Paul Evans. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Life is good for Alan Christoffersen. He has a beautiful wife, a great house and is head of a growing company, but all at once, Alan’s life changes permanently and irrevocably – he loses his family and job. Now completely on this own, Alan must figure out how to pick up the pieces and move on. He starts with a simple step, quite literally: he decides to go for a walk across America.
1. The author writes in the style of a diary. Do you enjoy this style of writing? Didit help you relate to the characters? Did you think it made the story stronger or weaker?
2. At the outset, Alan’s life seems to be perfect. However, in the prologue he makes it clear things don’t work out as he imagined. How did this admission and foreshadowing affect your reading?
3. At the start of chapter three the author tells us “procrastination is the thief of dreams” (31). Is this a true statement? How does that philosophy relate to Alan’s life? Is it true in your life?
4. After McKale’s accident, Alan is so preoccupied with her that his company disappears under his feet. What was his reaction to the news? How do you think you would have handled these major events all at once?
5. Alan became overwhelmed by his grief, yet he never lost his love for McKale. What does that say about him as a person and husband? How did those feelings help him through his pain?
6. Alan says he and McKalewere each other’s only friends. Did this focus only on each other end up having a detrimental effect or positive one? Why?
7. Alan’s father also lost his wife at an early age, and so had been through a similar situation. How did he support his son during the ordeal? Was it helpful?
8. The Christoffersens were terrible at handling money, and quickly had all their belongings repossessed. How does this metaphor relate to what else Alan had lost?
9. Before almost killing himself, Alan heard a voice that said, “Life is not yours to take” (175). Who, if anyone, was speaking to him, and what did that message mean?
10. Alan wrote in his diary he believeddeep in our hearts we all want to walk free. Do you think that’s true? Would people really prefer to be unchained from their belongings?
11. “A good walk in the woods is as effective as psychotherapy” (198). What is Alan trying to gain from his walk? A chance to get away from his problems or a long-term therapy session or both?
12. At what point did you begin to see a change in Alan? Who do you feel had the most profound effect on him during his walk?
13. When McKale visits Alan in a vision, what did she mean when she talked about Angel? What relationship did she see between him and the woman who he helped on the highway? What relationship do you think Alan and Angel will have?
14. Where do you see the story headed? What other trials do you expect Alan to encounter on his way to Key West?
Enhance Your Bookclub
1. Alan begins the story as a big shot ad executive. Create your own advertisement for The Walk and share it with the group. Explain how you created your design.
2. Alan spends much of the novel walking and thinking. Go for a walk with your group as you discuss the story.
3. Do you like to hike? Alan also became proficient in setting up tents and living off the land. Take a weekend trip to the woods or the mountains with your group to take in nature.
4. More than once Alan stopped in a restaurant claiming the best milkshakes in the world. What does it take to make the perfect shake? Create some with your group and see who can make the tastiest version.
A Conversation with Richard Paul Evans
1. What message are you trying to share with this novel?
I believe that we were meant to live as social creatures, to reach out and bless each other’s lives. To paraphrase what Dickens wrote, “…it’s required of all men to walk abroad among humanity.”
2. Why did you decide to write in diary form, rather than another styles?
I began writing in diary form nearly 15 years ago with my second novel Timepiece. I enjoy doing it and it makes for a very readable, interesting book.
3. There is a spiritual side to the novel as Alan wrestles with his feelings toward God. Why did you choose to add this aspect to the story?
It is my experience that almost everyone who suffers a major loss, whether a professed believer in God or not, wonders about God and struggles with either blame or confusion. It was an issue I wanted to address head-on, especially with Ally, the waitress, who asks: why do we blame God for the bad things but not the good?
4. Are you like Alan, who said that everyone has a deep desire to leave everything behind and just keep moving? Or do you prefer to stay close to home?
Seeing I’ve been in 13 cities in the last three weeks I suppose I’m more like Alan than I want to believe. But as I get older I long to just be home.
5. Why did you choose to call out certain parts of Alan’s diary to start each chapter?
It’s a style I’ve used before in my writing and one that is very popular with my readers. As I write the focus is on creating a story that flows quickly, so the reader becomes lost in the experience. More prosaic passages can stop that flow. I discovered by pulling them out and putting them at the beginning of a chapter heading, where the reader is already transitioning, makes for a more enjoyable read.
6. You write a very descriptive narrative about Washington State where Alan travels, and seem to have a lot of knowledge of the area. Have you traveled there before?
My daughter, Jenna, and I rented a car and drove the route, carefully observing what he would see, where he would stop and what he would eat. I initially tried to write this story in my den and realized it was impossible to do without being there. This means that over the next four years my daughter Jenna and I will travel across America together, something I’m very excited about.
7. Alan contemplates an important question on his walk that is good for you as well: Who really does have the greatest milkshakes?
I honestly don’t know. I’m diabetic so I didn’t try any. My daughter liked Zeke’s.
8. The Walk is the first book in your planned series. What other adventures are in store for Alan on his trip?
You’ll have to wait and see.
9. You’ve written a number of best sellers. What is it about writing that you enjoy? What is your process in creating stories that people enjoy so much?
I suppose I have an active imagination and writing allows me to live it out. I truly feel as if I’m a conduit for these stories and there are times that I don’t even know what I’m writing until it’s poured through me and I can confront it on the page. People are looking for inspiration and my books are sometimes the vehicles of what people are looking for. It’s my job, however, to make it entertaining.
10. What are you working on now?
A love story called Promise Me, due out Fall 2010.