In this age of self-publishing, a sea of blogs, and social media glut it can be difficult to find a writer with a fresh voice that draws the reader in and inspires a genuine feeling of pleasure from the act of reading. In Andra Watkins' second book, Not Without My Father: One Woman's Walk of the 444-Mile Natchez Trace the reader will not be disappointed. Watkins is a rare breed of storyteller who leaves her readers pining for more enchanting tales by the time the last sentence is fully consumed from the page.
Following the recent release of Watkins' first novel, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, this memoir is set against the historic Natchez Trace Parkway that journeys from Mississippi through the northwest corner of Alabama, and into Tennessee. Watkins braved the entire route on foot in an attempt to bring some attention to her first book but ended up with something far more important; the chance to remove herself from the interrupting noise of everyday life, which allowed her to focus on her relationship with her father. In the precious time and space of her epic walk, Watkins unravels her complex relationship with her father as told through stories of the journey that each function as a mile marker throughout the book.
The beauty of this book is not in the impressive feat of physical endurance that Watkins underwent, although that is mighty impressive indeed. Rather, the astonishing quality of this book lies in her striking reminder that we have an innate responsibility to ourselves - and to our loved ones -- to carve out precious spaces of time in order to create memories, however ephemeral, and to tend to our most valuable relationships that are ironically so easy to take for granted.
If you have been craving a book that will keep you up until the wee hours of the morning loyally flipping pages then Not Without My Father is it. Andra Watkin will soon explode on the literary scene with her captivating storytelling, and her sweet and occasionally oh-so-perfectly-salty Southern charm. This is one literary ride you do not want to miss.
In an effort to amplify her message that we all need to take pause and breathe some life into our own treasured relationships, Watkins has created a beautiful challenge called the Make A Memory campaign. In her own words, "Make a Memory is a movement, a challenge to turn I wish I had into I'm glad I did in 2015. Reach out and claim an adventure this year. Make a Memory before it's too late."