Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery: Review by Meilee Anderson
The Inspiring story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail
After consuming several novels and historical fiction stories I found myself needing to spend time with a nonfiction book. Looking for an inspiring quarantine read when I stumbled upon the title Grandma Gatewood’s Walk I was intrigued. I couldn’t find an audiobook version in my library app so I quickly ordered a copy and waited impatiently for it to arrive.
Emma Gatewood was 67 when she hiked the entire Appalachian Trail solo. I wanted to know more about “Grandma Gatewood” for clearly, this is a woman that explores life. The book begins in Ohio during the 1950s and spans beyond Emma’s death in 1973 when she passed away at the age of 85.
She was born in 1887, married at the age of 25 and went onto have 11 children. She was happy with farm life and raising her children, but her marriage was an unhappy, unhealthy one. Her husband was abusive. She survived nearly 3 decades of living with a narcissistic monster. Thankfully, Emma was able to get a divorce in 1941.
She started her hiking adventures humbly, and with a failed attempt. Undeterred she honed her strength and prepared for another expedition. The book travels back and forth through her life. We discover her backstory and experience life on the 2,050-mile trail along with this gutsy granny. Not only did Emma make the entire trek on the Appalachian Trail once, she set a record as the first person (man or woman) to complete the journey three more times! Her travels garnered her growing notoriety. She became a media darling. She used her celebrity to shine a spotlight on the Appalachian Trail which inspired other hikers to make the journey. She also inspired volunteer groups to improve sections of the trail. Granny it turned out, was a badass! She even went on to walk the Oregon Trail all the way from Ohio, to Portland, Oregon!
I was inspired by her tenacity. The woman was a survivor, hardworking, and one heck of a determined woman. Grandma Gatewood’s Walk made me smile, cry, and go for more walks in my suburban neighborhood thinking of her adventures. I marvel at people who complete the Wonderland Trail, I’m astounded at people that make it on the PCT. I will never tackle anything like the Appalachian Trail but the next time I go for a walk at Paradise up at Mount Rainier I’m going to think of Grandma Gatewood.
Ben Montgomery’s style is easy to read style. I read the entire book cover to cover in 2 days. He’s approachable, does a succinct job of setting the scene but isn’t stingy with the details.
Trigger warning: domestic abuse
Buy it here
Born in Oklahoma, Ben Montgomery attended Arkansas Tech University where he focused on journalism. Upon graduation he worked at a multitude of prestigious newspapers and in 2010, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting and won the Dart Award and Casey Medal for a series called “For Their Own Good,” about abuse at Florida’s oldest reform school. He lives in Tampa with his wife, Jennifer, and three children.