this is the book for YOU! I bought it as a general interest travel narrative, and it does work as that, although at some points better than others.
Part 1 struck me as the least "general interest" section, as the author spends much of that time alone on the high seas in the middle of nowhere, although there are (eventually) stops in the Marquesas, Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, etc.
Part 2 is largely concerned with Australia, both sightseeing on land, and sailing its vast coast, finishing up with the trip to Arabia, with a lengthy stopover in Sri Lanka.
Part 3 covers the most in terms of miles - Arabia to California, via the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Panama Canal. Starts out with adventures in avoiding pirates (he never really is threatened, though friends have a lot less luck) from Arabia to Israel, through the Suez Canal. Stops, including sightseeing trips, in Israel, Italy, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, and Trinidad, until the not-so-simple Canal crossing, and home to San Diego.
Michael's a really nice fellow, without being particularly sappy about it, making lots of friends along the way; he uses the convention of referring to them by their boats' names ("Beatrice" etc.) and as he meets up with some after a long absence from the story, that did get a tad confusing at times. He's also quite a foodie, so it wasn't exactly hardtack and sardines for him; at one point he has so much surplus fish he makes a quantity of "fish jerky" out of it all! He did a terrific job in picking out the highlights of the trip, so things never really dragged for me, as I'd feared they might.
Parker's narration works quite well in terms of maintaining enthusiasm, although I wish he'd done (more) prep work in getting place names correct, as at times it was almost painful to hear him get some wrong.
Final verdict: definitely recommended!
I'll admit I did tune out at times when the author went on for a while about minor historical points along the course of the river. However, the narrator does an outstanding job, personalizing the story so vividly that I still can't believe Graves didn't read it himself.
I really fell for the antics of his traveling companion ("The Passenger").
I haven't read Kingsley's book, but admire Alexander's planning in following the literary trail she left behind. Still, if you're expecting historical footsteps as the primary focus here, it doesn't quite work that way. Roughly half of the book is a modern travel narrative, having little or nothing to do with Kingsley, which was fine by me, but that writer's fans may find the footsteps angle a bit thin. Also, Alexander spends a fair amount of time on a side story of a missionary physician whom Kingsley had met on her journey. Overall, a pleasant read, where not much really happens of note - no wildly challenging monkey wrenches typical of other African adventures: she goes places (some Kingsley-related, others not), meets people, reports what she finds, and moves on to the next location. Lecat's narration came across as a bit more ... patrician, and seems a bit more mature, than I'd expected of Alexander herself, giving the story the air of a Womens' Institute talk from local gentry; however, as there aren't really any truly dramatic moments, that wasn't such a bad fit.
I have read several reviews that seem to judge the writer both for her life choices and for her lack of preparation for the extended hike and that's not going to be my theme here. Her background was trauma-filled enough prior to the PCT trip and that alone qualifies her for some odd (at the very least) and misbegotten decision-making. Perhaps her life had been so challenging and frightening before the hike, what could happen on the trip that could possibly be worse?
I kept feeling similarities to the movie "The Way" with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, as the story of an extended trip by foot with no preparation, following a dramatic personal loss. The same questions emerge and are shared with others on the road - Why are you doing this? What led up to this decision? What do you hope to accomplish? - as "the path" fulfills its inevitable destiny as metaphor for the examined life, and is offered up as a pilgrimage.
The fact that she waited over ten years to write the story - and perhaps this is at least partially due to the ups and downs of getting the book published in the first place - and did it without any internet caf??s, email, tweets and Facebook status reports, makes this a significant accomplishment, done (as far as I can tell but I may have missed something) totally from memory and without benefit of a journal of any sort.
The reading is excellent - narrated by Bernadette Dunne, of whose audio work I have long been a fan and have read more by her from audible.com than almost any other narrator. She has no interpretive quirks and does a very smooth and consistent reading without any extra drama thrown in.
Whatever the reason we read, for intellectual enhancement, emotional connection, information, escape, insight into alternate perspectives - bottom line for me and any book is always "does it work?". For "Wild", I have to say "yes".