- Paperback: 252 pages
- Publisher: Word Hermit Press LLC (January 15, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0990859312
- ISBN-13: 978-0990859314
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 223 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #309,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Not Without My Father: One Woman's 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace Paperback – January 15, 2015
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"One literary ride you do not want to miss!" - The Huffington Post "This memoir definitely contributes to the literature of the family dynamic. Hard to put down." - Portland Book Review "The opportunity to share epiphanies, hardships, and revelatory change. A really good read." - We Proceeded On, the Journal of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation "One ordinary Rotarian doing extraordinary things." - The Rotarian Magazine
About the Author
New York Times best selling author Andra Watkins lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, Michael T Maher. She is the first living person to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did prior to the rise of steam power in the 1820s. From March 1, 2014 to April 3, 2014, she walked fifteen miles a day. Six days a week. One rest day per week. She spent each night in the modern-day equivalent of stands, places much like Grinders Stand, where Meriwether Lewis died from two gunshot wounds on October 11, 1809. In addition to celebrating the release of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, the walk also inspired her New York Times Best Selling memoir on the adventure, Not Without My Father: One Womans 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace, published in January 2015. It was nominated for the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction, the Sarton Memoir Award, and the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for Autobiographies and Memoirs. Natchez Trace: Tracks in Time is a collection of photographs from her 444-mile walk was published in March 2015. Hard to Die, the follow-up novel to To Live Forever, is an inventive new take on the uncharted fate of Theodosia Burr Alston, the fiery daughter of Alexander Hamiltons murderer Aaron Burr. This speculative fiction time-warp combines elements of history, the paranormal, and suspense to breathe fresh air into Theodosias forgotten life and story. Hard to Die was published in November 2016.
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And Andra Watkins isn't a devoted hiker. She walked the remnants of the old footpath to publicize her book: To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis. The quirky premise of that book, published in March, 2014, involves the ghost of Meriwether Lewis trying to redeem himself for his own unresolved death. Lewis, best known for his participation in the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806, died in 1809 at the age of 35 while traveling on the Natchez Trace. Whether his death was suicide or murder continues to be debated by historians.
The title for Watkins' book comes from the fact that she was accompanied on the walk by her father. Each day he dropped her off where she had finished the day before and picked her up at the end of her daily 15-mile tormented walk, which never got easier. While readers of this book will learn something of the Trace's historic past, they will learn more about a troubled relationship between a daughter and her father—and where this journey takes them. Not Without my Father is more about relationships and coming to know one's self than it is a travelogue. It's a story that is real, with all the grit of growing up in a household that had little resemblance to the Beaver's world of June and Ward Cleaver.
This is a book without traditional heroes, but one in which you'll find yourself rooting for the non-heroes who struggle to give meaning to their lives, the daughter by walking and the father by selling his daughter's books along the way. Both finally have the time to explore and try to overcome memories of bad times in their relationship, and both realize the time remaining to mend their ways is short.
Did Andra really walk beside a highway the entire Natchez Trace? Did she and her father come to better understand each other? I'm not going to answer those questions. You'll have to read the book and find out for yourself. I'll just say that it won't be a waste of your time.
by Pat Bean
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
Andra Watkins wrote a novel about explorer Meriwether Lewis. This gives her the idea to walk the Trace as Lewis died there under mysterious circumstances. Watkins is no athlete. “In high school, I couldn’t run a mile, score a goal or hit a ball. Why did I think I could walk more than a half-marathon every day for a month at forty-four?” She also asks her father to be her “wing-man.” Watkins and her dad have always had a contentious relationship. “Dad and I shouted down my teens, harangued through my twenties, and seethed away my thirties. For most of my life, our every interaction disintegrated into hurtful words and pregnant silences.” She is hoping for a new understanding during the trip. The plan is that Watkins will walk the Trace from March 1 to April 3, traveling 15 miles a day. While she suffers from blisters and other minor hardships, she’s not exactly roughing it. In fact, her dad is always around in his car, taking her to hotels at the end of each day, bringing her meals, etc. It’s not like walking the Appalachian Trail and I got more than a little tired of all her crying. But it was also eye opening for Watkins to see how fragile her elderly father had become.
The one thing that didn’t get enough attention was the Natchez Trace. Today, we mostly think of it as a federal highway. But parts of the original trail can still be seen in places. It definitely has a rich history, going back many centuries. Today the Trace is “Almost 450 miles of highway ringed by farms and swampland, its sides were eroded canyons in some places. Ghostly buffalo herds competed with the earliest Native American spirits, Spanish Conquistadors, French missionaries and warring armies along paved federal parkway.” One sad event that Watkins witnesses is how the Trace is suffering today because of budget cuts and neglect.
I did enjoy Not Without My Father. Andra writes that “I walked almost 400 miles to find my father. The Natchez Trace was the portal.” I just wish there had been more about the Trace.
If someone is interested in reading a book about an adult daughter and her elderly father, they may enjoy this book very much. It just wasn't what I was expecting.