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The Man Who Walked Backward

An American Dreamer's Search for Meaning in the Great Depression
Narrated by: MacLeod Andrews
Length: 8 hrs and 50 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (8 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From Pulitzer Prize finalist Ben Montgomery, the story of a Texas man who, during the Great Depression, walked around the world - backward. 

Like most Americans at the time, Plennie Wingo was hit hard by the effects of the Great Depression. When the bank foreclosed on his small restaurant in Abilene, he found himself suddenly penniless with nowhere left to turn. After months of struggling to feed his family on wages he earned digging ditches in the Texas sun, Plennie decided it was time to do something extraordinary - something to resurrect the spirit of adventure and optimism he felt he'd lost. He decided to walk around the world - backward. 

In The Man Who Walked Backward, Pulitzer Prize-finalist Ben Montgomery charts Plennie's backward trek across the America that gave rise to Woody Guthrie, John Steinbeck, and the New Deal. With the Dust Bowl and Great Depression as a backdrop, Montgomery follows Plennie across the Atlantic through Germany, Turkey, and beyond, detailing the daring physical feats, grueling hardships, comical misadventures, and hostile foreign police he encountered along the way. 

A remarkable and quirky slice of Americana, The Man Who Walked Backward paints a rich and vibrant portrait of a jaw-dropping period of history.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2018 Ben Montgomery (P)2018 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"From Rip Van Winkle to Forrest Gump, Americans have fallen in love with quirky individualists who find their true worth by lighting out into the territory. They were fictional. Plennie Wingo, the man who decided to walk across the globe backward, was real. Wingo turned his back on the Great Depression, an adventure brought to life by the vivid narration of Ben Montgomery, a writer so talented I could read him walking backward." (Roy Peter Clark, author of Writing Tools)

"Ben Montgomery is a joy and a wonder, a writer I would happily follow halfway around the world - backward. In fact, I just did, in the compelling company of Plennie L. Wingo, the retrograde ambulator of Abilene, Texas. What a book!" (David Von Drehl, author of Triangle: The Fire That Changed America and Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America's Most Perilous Year)

"In The Man Who Walked Backward, Ben Montgomery lovingly assembles a mosaic of the United States and the world between the wars, told through the life of a small-town Texan who refused to accept his miserable lot during the Depression. Montgomery's vivid storytelling resurrects the strange and wonderful Plennie Wingo, a new American Everyman." (Andrea Pitzer, author of One Long Night)

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Another unusual character

Ben Montgomery has a knack for finding unusual characters with barely known stories. In this, his third book, we meet Plennie Wingo, a depression era Texan, who decided to walk around the world backward. When his business of running a restaurant slowly lost steam and the space was reclaimed by the bank, Plennie decided to do something no one before had accomplished. Selling postcards to pay his way, he left Abilene, TX, on an adventure the likes of which seem improbable, but are truly remarkable.
Along the way, Ben Montgomery gives us a history lesson on the Great Depression and the Western World between wars. This alone, aside from the unusual journey of his real life character, is worth the read. Once again, Montgomery has given us an eye view into an era as never before provided. A delightful story of a time fewer and fewer people experienced, but today can allow the reader to draw some parallels, to our own time. This is a book to add to your shelf, or your Audible queue.

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Thoroughly enjoyable story! BIG recommend!

I happened on this book on September 18th, the day it was released. Browsing through Audible it popped out at me and I listened to the sample.

The narrator's voice is FANTASTIC (take a listen to the sample audio and you'll see what I mean) and the story sounded so interesting that I decided to go for it. I love true stories and learning about history so this book was right up my alley.

In addition to Plennie's great adventure, I learned sooo much about the Great Depression... WOWZA... I never realized the scope of just how bad it was back them. Damnnnnn. But Plennie, (talk about "hustle", that should have been his middle name) was determined to do something about his predicament. His mantra was "Don't worry. DO something." I love that. I'm inspired by how creative he was and the lengths he was willing to go to to "make good".

It's a thoroughly enjoyable (and TRUE) story and I highly recommend it!

A side note: When I was about a third of the way through listening I got on Google to look for more pictures of Plennie (I hadn't realized there was a pdf that comes with the Audible version) and what I found was an article from a paper in Tampa, Florida saying that there was a book release party on Saturday, September 22nd, preceded by a "Backwards Walking Pub Crawl" in Tampa...

Wait a minute...!

I was reading this post on the MORNING of the 22nd and I live only a half hour away from Tampa! The article said that folks would be dressing in Depression Era style clothing and walking backwards to several pubs in before landing at a local bookstore for the book launch party. How fun!! I scooted up to my favorite thrift store and found a dress that fit the bill.

I'm so glad I went. I met the author, Ben Montgomery, plus his kids, his girlfriend, his mom and dad, (they were all dressed in spot-on Depression era attire!) and a bunch of other folks, too! We all walked backwards, pub to pub, and it was a lot of fun. Ben is a bit of a local celebrity in these parts but I'd not heard of him because I only moved to St. Pete recently.

I'll DEFINITELY be checking out Ben's other books plus anything else that this narrator has recorded.