A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins

July 1, 2010
By AddieG. GOLD, Chattanooga, Tennessee
AddieG. GOLD, Chattanooga, Tennessee
15 articles 18 photos 0 comments

A Walk Across America is a historical narrative written by Peter Jenkins. It was written and published in the 1970s. Fresh out of college and disconnected with society, Peter’s story is not a cliché one. The brutality and heartlessness of America forced Peter into beginning the walk. His own determination and new found hope drove him to finish it. "I started out searching for myself and my country and found both." (back cover). In the midst of the Vietnam War, Peter felt disconnected with society, and his walk from New York to New Orleans in the 1970s was a mission, in a sense, to find the core heart of the country.

The story begins with Peter Jenkins preparing for the grueling feat of walking from coast to coast. He and his forever friend, Cooper, who is actually a dog, trained by running many miles daily to burn their “city” pudge and become strictly lean muscle. Once they began the walk, Peter and his dog chose to stay secluded from society by hanging around country towns, back roads and camping all the time. Word quickly began to spread that some “hippie” was walking across America. Some thought it was absurd, but others wanted to help him out. Of these people included a sometimes grumpy, real mountaineer named Homer Davenport. In the few days that the two were together, Homer warms up to the friendship and says “You ought to settle down here…on my mountain.” (72). Peter tells him he won’t accept the offer, but he will be back someday. Later, Peter happens upon a religious but gracious African American family. The mother, Mary Elizabeth, welcomes Peter into her home while he takes up work at a lumber mill to earn money. When he has what he needs, he reluctantly leaves the Oliver family. Peter also ends up in a place called The Farm. The Farm is a vast expanse of land for a group of hippies to go back to a natural environment where they grow everything on the farm, raise children together and live in large tents. These naturalists follow, and perhaps worship, the words and ways of a man named Stephen Gaskin. The Farm people sucked Peter into their ways and made it very difficult for him to leave. For a while after that, he settles in Mobile, Alabama and meets Barbara, the romantic interest. He finally reaches his goal, the Gulf Coast after roughing through the grueling elements of over a year walking across America.

Peter wrote this New York Times Bestseller to tell the account of his revitalizing hope in his country and himself. At such an important time in recent American history Peter shows the hostility and hospitality of American residents and the secluded towns in which they live. The stories in this book breathe new life into the meaning of racism, simplicity and friendship. In the end, Peter discovers that instead of leaving the country for a more peaceful land, he will remain in his beloved America.

“Last winter we settled down to write this book. Our cabin was on a ranch near a tiny village deep in the Rocky Mountains. As we worked, eagles and elk kept us company right outside our cabin window. Just to the east of us rose the snow-capped Continental Divide.”(291), Peter says of writings this book with his romantic interest, Barbara. The story is well written and it is incredibly easy to get completely to fall into the world Peter paints. He is descriptive to a point. His writing style does not get old and it’s very easy to stay intrigued.

This story, full of love, hate and a little bit of suspense, will provoke thoughts about your own life and stance on the politics of America. It is strong in adventure and even some philosophy but tends to lack in suspense. Peter lays it out on the table for you and even though this can be a good thing, at times it can destroy a perfectly good story. Anyone who likes adventure would enjoy this book, particularly people who are losing hope in themselves or America. People looking for a closer connection to God would not find this book beneficial as Peter does not really know what’s out there, or what he is looking to find. Overall, A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins is a thoughtful, well written book that deserves to be read more than once in a lifetime.

Similar Articles


This article has 1 comment.

on Jul. 15 2010 at 10:27 pm
PhoenixLord BRONZE, Park City, Utah
3 articles 0 photos 5 comments

I loved this book, and you hit the mark on all accounts!

Future advice though, sum up the plot of the book in a few sentences, not a whole paragraph.

Parkland Book