Book Review: The Walk West (A Walk Across America 2)

The Walk West Cover

The Walk West continues the story of Peter Jenkins’ journey – joined by Barbara Jenkins, the woman he met and married along the way – as they continue west from New Orleans on an epic quest to walk across America.

Having reviewed the first book last May, I set out to quickly read and review the second book. I started the book in June, read some, set it aside, read some more, set it aside, repeat until October. Finally, last weekend, I realized that my reading of the book mirrored the contents of the book. Peter and Barbara travel a spell, then stop along the way for days or months at a time. Also, towards the conclusion, they debate moving forward, when their only real options are to finish, or to quit with the finish line within sight. Recognizing that as my pattern too, I sped to the last page.

Isabella Bird wrote a book in 1879 (which has influenced Campfire Tales in many ways) called A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains which chronicled her adventures (mostly) in territorial Colorado in 1873. I found myself amazed at the similarities between the two books, separated almost exactly by 100 years. Both books:

  • True stories about people who embark upon major travels (Go all around the world! Walk across America!) at a crossroads in their lives (Peter’s motivations are explained in-depth in the first book, but they continue in the sequel).
  • Written (edited) from notes and letters long after the fact, and both have the same stop-and-go narrative momentum.
  • Serve as incredible time capsules of American life, giving insight into truly hard and dangerous American jobs and the settling of the American West.
  • Center around romances between mercurial, volatile, charming men who prefer the company of dogs over humans, and adventuresome, observant, seemingly-fragile-but-surprisingly-resilient women (just to be clear — they present themselves as fragile, but their actions prove otherwise).
  • Everyone “winters” in a cabin in the Colorado!
  • Everyone goes on a cattle drive!
  • Everyone becomes a bestselling author and continues writing!

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