Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail by T.J. Forrester

Taz Chavis is a broken man without a future and any family.  Directly after finishing a prison term, he finds out that his father has committed suicide and left him a small inheritance – enough to start over away from his nowhere hometown in Wyoming.  

Moving to Atlanta doesn’t change his life.  Taz is soon back into an alcohol and cocaine fueled lifestyle.  But he still has a desire to change things, and to him, the answer is a footpath beginning 100 miles north – the Appalachian Trail.

Taz dives in to the hiking life hoping for a breakaway from the drugs, and the trail does change him, although it becomes another addiction of sorts.  Beyond the scary switchbacks, shredded feet, and fatigue, there’s real meaning on the trail for Taz, although what will have meaning when he completes his walk?

Taz is the main voice of this book but there are several other storylines.  Two other hikers who meet up with him are Simone, a young lady walking away from a breakup and hopefully, fatal urges, and Richard, a young man with a mammoth appetite for the walking trail and booze.  Taz becomes close to both of them as walking the entire AT becomes ever closer a reality for all three.  However, there are some hellish hurdles to get through, and we won’t even talk about the mystery deaths along the way – hikers that have fallen off sheer precipices.  This is assuming they weren’t helped into the void by somebody else.

The author gets street cred (or should I say trail cred) for actually having thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail.  You’ll feel every blister as you read.  You’ll also enjoy Taz’s journey towards enlightenment, as it were, and experience some wrenching tragedy.  And in one chapter, which is a spur off the main trail of the story, you’ll discover the outlandish extremes one person will go to keep and protect the love of his life.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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