In early 1963, in order to reinvigorate the American people after the nervous terrors of the Cuban missile crisis, President John F. Kennedy had an idea for a national event that could bring folks together and make a show of the country’s spirit. It was called “The Big Walk,” and it was originally aimed at the Marine Corps—a challenge to walk 50 miles in 20 hours. Soon people all over the country had taken up the challenge and with grit, stamina, and patriotic fervor, planned out and hiked 50 mile paths in and around their towns and cities. This community effort is the framing device of Harun’s novel, a premise that works extremely well not only as a way to delineate her characters as they painstakingly traverse the thick woods and hunters’ paths of the Washington coast and forestland, but also thematically, as a metaphor for the ways in which these people climb, slip, stumble, bump, and redirect themselves through their lives. The residents of Humtown making up this motley pack of sojourners include the local gossip, who happens to be the town’s sole phone operator; a teenage girl, desperately afraid of her abusive brother, with a stolen item to dispose of; a recently widowed schoolteacher racked by grief and plagued by thoughts of suicide; a cheerful yet peculiar man who may or may not be a Catholic priest; and an assortment of Boy Scouts and old-time farmers with naturalist skills to display and courage to prove. Overshadowing all in this exceptionally well-drawn, dusky world is the eerie disappearance of a young mother and her two children, the husband likely enough responsible for it but with no evidence against him, a dark man skittering nervously, threateningly round the edges of the group’s physically punishing, ultimately redemptive path.

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