Called Again is the story of one remarkable woman’s quest to live life at one hundred percent, all the while, hiking America’s 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail in record speed.
I have to admit: I was intimidated when I began reading Jennifer’s novel knowing that the author’s physical fitness, mental strength and stamina for life were extraordinary. No one less than extraordinary accomplishes something that no other human has before. But, the opening to her novel surprised me. It was so real, so personal and so revealing that I immediately found a level on which I could relate to her. A few words about all-consuming heartbreak and failed love and I was hooked.
Jennifer explains that most people are lacking a healthy relationship with nature and that “the more fast-paced and over-stimulated the world becomes, the more important it will be to take a walk in the woods.” In her own life, she uses the Blue Ridge Mountains as a place to reconnect with herself and find clarity. But, to get over her ex and find peace in being alone, she seeks a bigger challenge—an overall record on the Appalachian Trail. With the advice and encouragement of renowned hiker Warren Doyle, she first sets out on the Long Trail in Vermont to get a feel for what a speed record hike could do for her wounded psyche.
Jennifer sets a speed record for the Long Trail, to the amazement of Warren and herself, and uses the victory to urge herself towards her ultimate goal. But before even conquering her own mental resolve, the press catches word of her planned AT record attempt. She is astonished by how deeply the reporters focus on the fear of failure: “it made me realize how much our culture is paralyzed by the fear of losing. I wasn’t worried about not succeeding; I was worried about not trying.”
Another life change happens in the midst of everything: despite her dogged will to remain single, after months of dating and hiking all over the world together, Jennifer finds herself married to her husband Brew. At first, she struggles to mollify her stubborn independence streak, though eventually with patience and love, they form a formidable hiking team. Brew promises to support her on the AT, but just as any protective mom would, Mother Nature tests and challenges their devotion to each other and the trail.
One of the most illuminating ideas the trail inspires in Jennifer along the way occurs when a fellow hiker asks whether she is “having fun.” She replies that she is not (sleet storms, lightning strikes, shin splints, illnesses and extreme temperatures can catch up to you). This prompts the next question, the inquiry any reader would have, “Then, why are you doing it?” After a pause, she responds, “because it’s worthwhile…when things are this difficult, it causes you to change and grow and I am learning a lot about myself…even though this hike isn’t easy, it is fulfilling…in the end, it is better than fun.”
Sometimes, the only way to truly understand concepts like challenge, struggle, courage, will, fulfillment and joy is to read a story from someone who has the unique combination of talents to both experience those successfully and the power of expression to impart and inspire enlightenment in others. Jennifer’s hike is about love: for God, for her husband, for creation. In the end, she accomplished her goal for the love of herself, as well, which serves to demonstrate that life is about discovering and cherishing who you are.
The Verdict: Jennifer’s book is a moving testament to the power of the human body and the strength of a determined mind. Her message will make a mark on any reader because she serves as an example of a person who has learned to use challenge and struggle to harness her true potential, to realize the fullest version of herself, and to know pure joy.
Release Date: June 10, 2013
Author: Jennifer Pharr Davis is a 2012 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year