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Not Without My Father: One Woman's 444-Mile…
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Not Without My Father: One Woman's 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace

by Andra Watkins

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In March of 2014, to celebrate the release of her debut novel To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, Andra Watkins planned an ambitious journey of her own. She planned to walk the historic 444-mile Natchez Trace just as the pioneers did. Her trek would last for thirty-four days, at fifteen miles per day. Ambitious, perhaps almost impossible, but at the end of her monumental endeavor, Andra Watkins could claim the distinction of being the first living person to walk the entire length of the historic Natchez Trace - all the way from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee.

However, the question foremost in her mind was: Can such an epic adventure succeed without a hero? So, Andra decided that she needed a wingman; someone to cheer her on, inspire her, and help her to achieve the incredible goal that she had set for herself. To that end, Andra listed several potential names.

After striking out with everyone else in her life, Andra was left with her disinterested eighty-year-old father. And his explosive gas; his indelicate self-scratching; the blaring television, which competed nightly with the sleep apnea machine. Sharing a bathroom with a man whose gut obliterated his aim. To Andra, her plan was pure insanity: herself and her father, together in close quarters; for thirty-four days? If it were in any way possible; this was a recipe for true disaster, bound to derail rather spectacularly at any point along the way.

As she trudged along America's forgotten highway, Andra lost herself in despair and pain. Nothing went according to plan, and her tenuous connection to her father started to unravel. Through arguments and laughter, tears and fried chicken, father and daughter struggled to rebuild their relationship with each other before it was too late.

Amid the endlessly repetitive stories told enthusiastically to strangers; and the embarrassing instances of fatherly promotion of her novel, Andra invites readers to join her dysfunctional family adventure in this humorous and heartbreaking memoir that asks if one can really turn 'I wish I had' into I'm glad I did'.

I must say that I enjoyed reading this book immensely. In my opinion, this was a beautifully written story; poignant and funny, but also extremely moving. I was consistently reminded while I read this book that in everyone's life, no matter how difficult the relationship may become with a loved one, there are always certain special moments or memories that can never be forgotten. I give Not Without my Father: One Woman's 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace by Andra Watkins a definite A!

Andra has also set a challenge for her readers for this year: she wants us all to experience life, and to make a memory with that special someone for 2015! She would love to hear about her readers' special memories if they wish to share them with her at mystories@andrawatkins.com. Andra promises to read every submission that she receives and highlight them on her website. ( )
  rubyandthetwins | Jun 22, 2017 |
This is a story of a woman's long walk along the Natchez Trace. The 400-plus mile road from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville is the same route famed explorer Meriwether Lewis traveled when he met death under mostly unknown circumstances. Although no one is certain how he died, it is probable that he was the victim of robbers. All along the route, the author is haunted with thoughts of what might have happened.

Andra Watkins found the walk a way to connect with her aging parents. Her mother joined as a participant part of the way. Her father went along by car and proudly hustled a novel his daughter had written before the adventure. The father seems to channel his daughter's sense of accomplishment in this well-written memoir The book reminisces about his past and the reader gets a look at his immense satisfaction in his offspring's accomplishment.

As much as anything else, the walk was a way to reconnect with her parents. She had not fully realized just how frail her father had become until this adventure Along the route she became all too familiar with his nightly routine of complaining when faced with having to take stairs during bed-and-breakfast stays. When the walk ended, Andra proudly had her picture taken with arms around her parents.

This is a truly a heartwarming story about endurance and accomplishment. You're going to love it!
  JamesBanzer | Mar 13, 2015 |
After reading her debut novel To Live Forever, I instantly became an Andra Watkins fan. Her story of Meriwether Lewis and the Natchez Trace left an impression. Needless to say, when I learned of her next endeavor chronicling her actual walk of the Natchez Trace, I was anxious to read of her courageous and bold adventure.

“I almost forgot about my book. I risked my life to convince people to try my novel, because I thought if I demonstrated dedication to my story, a few more people might read it.”

I have the utmost respect for Andra Watkins accomplishing her goal of walking the Natchez Trace solo, only her determination and endurance serving as her buttress. Physically and mentally demanding, emotions running high, Andra discovers inner peace as she pushes through her body’s screams, her mettle tested, the uncooperative harshness of natures elements. Her father serving as ‘wingman’ of sorts, their strained relationship revitalized and resuscitated as the journey bridges the fissure between these two spirited and stubborn individuals.

I appreciate Andra’s candor with exposing her issues long held within regarding her parents. Capable writing skills, feelings in black and white font add tenderness to an already sentimental narrative. Her quick wit, wry humor and huge heart endear her to readers. Her father is a hoot, truly a one-man-show. No doubt the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. With all certitude Andra has material for a novel based solely on her father, his stories alone worthy of sharing, a man larger than life possessing a very vibrant personality. I enjoyed the intimate glimpse of these two rebuilding their rented bond.

A story I found inspiring on a physical as well as emotional level. Andra excelled in making a memory singularly and plurally. ( )
  melinda_hence | Mar 3, 2015 |
Sometimes two people are so different from each other they have trouble connecting to each other. They find themselves aggravated and annoyed with each other instead of loving each other. They don't communicate and have no confidence in being cared for by the other. They hold onto resentments and let that cloud their feelings. They embrace their hurts, nurturing them instead of understanding and forgiveness. Andra Watkins was in this very situation with her father when she invited him to go with her and be her support as she publicized her new book by walking the Natchez Trace. She didn't particularly want him to be her safety net but no one else in her life could afford the time off as she walked the 444 miles of the Trace.

In 2014, Andra Watkins published her first book, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, about Lewis' ghost's attempt to redeem his soul. In order to publicize her book, Watkins decides to make the the journey Lewis' ghost takes in the book, mirroring the actual final journey Lewis made before his still debated death on the Natchez Trace. The Natchez Trace Parkway is a paved drive through history and beautiful scenery stretching from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. The Trace is a part of the United States National Park Service and walking it was the perfect tie-in to Watkins' book. Since it is roughly 444 miles long, she decided to walk it in 15 mile increments and she needed someone who could take off the month or so it would take her to complete this personal journey. Striking out with everyone she would have liked to have accompany her, she was left, rather reluctantly, with her 80 year old father, Roy, his noisy sleep apnea machine, his garrulous story telling, his intestinal upsets, and their fraught relationship.

This long walk was not just a way to publicize Watkins' book, it also became a way for her to repair her long damaged relationship with her father. She tells not only of her experiences walking the Trace, her battered and bloodied feet, the dangerous traffic whizzing past her unseeing and unhampered by the presence of rangers (she walked during the government shut-down), the nature she encountered, and the moments of grace she experienced, but she also tells of two strong personalities in conflict with each other learning once again to listen to the other and to show love. As her dad picks her up every day after her 15 miles, she comes to understand what drives him a little better and to forgive him for things large and small. She wearily signs copies of the books he sells to almost everyone he meets along the way. She endures his gregarious tale telling, for the umpteenth time. And she faces all the difficulties and conflicts she has ever had with her father, finding the grace to set them aside and to love him for the man he is while he is still around for her to appreciate.

The book is mainly Andra's tale but there are occasional chapters of anecdotes from Roy's imagined point of view or in his voice. These worked less well than the main narrative, in some cases because snippets of the tale contained within had already been partially shared in Andra's portion and in other cases because they revealed more of what Andra wanted from her father than anything and that would have been better served in her portions of the narration. The gradual shift in Andra's thinking about her dad, from being maddened by him and wanting to quit walking so she doesn't have to stay with him to accepting his foibles, recognizing his mortality, and seeing the undercover way he does truly care and worry for her (and she for him) is lovely. This book and the experience that spawned it is a gift to both her father and to herself. ( )
  whitreidtan | Feb 19, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0990859312, Paperback)

Can an epic adventure succeed without a hero? Andra Watkins needed a wingman to help her become the first living person to walk the historic 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. She planned to walk fifteen miles a day. For thirty-four days. After striking-out with everyone in her life, she was left with her disinterested eighty-year-old father. And his gas. The sleep apnea machine and self-scratching. Sharing a bathroom with a man whose gut obliterated his aim. As Watkins trudged America's forgotten highway, she lost herself in despair and pain. Nothing happened according to plan, and her tenuous connection to her father started to unravel. Through arguments and laughter, tears and fried chicken, they fought to rebuild their relationship before it was too late. In Not Without My Father: One Woman's 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace, Watkins invites readers to join her dysfunctional family adventure in a humorous and heartbreaking memoir that asks if one can really turn 'I wish I had' into 'I'm glad I did.'

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:16 -0400)

Can an epic adventure succeed without a hero? Andra Watkins needed a wingman to help her become the first living person to walk the historic 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. She planned to walk fifteen miles a day. For thirty-four days. After striking-out with everyone in her life, she was left with her disinterested eighty-year-old father. And his gas. The sleep apnea machine and self-scratching. Sharing a bathroom with a man whose gut obliterated his aim. As Watkins trudged America's forgotten highway, she lost herself in despair and pain. Nothing happened according to plan, and her tenuous connection to her father started to unravel. Through arguments and laughter, tears and fried chicken, they fought to rebuild their relationship before it was too late. In Not Without My Father: One Woman's 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace, Watkins invites readers to join her dysfunctional family adventure in a humorous and heartbreaking memoir that asks if one can really turn 'I wish I had' into 'I'm glad I did.'… (more)

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