Broomfield's 2016 choice for One Book One Broomfield is "Grandma Gatewood's Walk" by Ben Montgomery and published by Chicago Review Press. While I wasn't sure if it was the most reflective choice for the Broomfield community, I was blown away by how compelling her story, and Montgomery's writing, was and I came to see why the themes of pioneer spirit, reverence for nature and taking small steps to achieve big results, appealed to the selection committee.
As Colorado itself is the product of a pioneer spirit, the story, which takes place mostly in southern Ohio and along the Appalachian Trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine, does have an odd resonance. It's at once triumphant, heart-breaking and incredible in the scope of her journey and the odds she faced and the sacrifices she made to attempt to reach her goal.
That goal was singular, to be the first women to traverse the Appalachian Trail in one trip, a term called "thru-hiking" the trail, known as the A.T. among hikers. That she was 67 years old, and a great grandmother only adds to the tension and suspense. Along the way, she develops a national following, as the nation cheers her on through frequent local and then, national newspaper and TV accounts.
It is also a celebration of walking, very compelling since her attempt is made in 1955 amidst the explosion of automobile culture and the development of the interstate highway system.
The story of her hike is also intertwined with the story of raising children, working on a southern Ohio farm in the first part of the 20th century and most poignantly, dealing with an unfortunate and tragic marriage. All of these experiences are brought to bear on her attempt.
As I grow the store here, I've realized that like Grandma Gatewood, who brought only what she could carry and was helped time and time again as she made her quest, that there are always people to help along the way, even when times are rough and the path looks un-passable. Through determination, grace and chance, the story demonstrates how the impossible can become possible. "Grandma Gatewood's Walk" was an unexpected delight.
The author will be talking about the book at the One Book Event at the Broomfield Library on November 5th, 2016 at 7PM. - Matt Johnson