... moving ... An experienced painter whose work has hung in exhibitions across the northeastern United States, Shattuck documented the people and places he encountered in lovely pencil sketches that punctuate his prose ... witnesses how, in every season, choosing to step into the natural world can lead to healing and peace.
Shattuck’s memoir is much more than a paean to Thoreau. In this resonant little volume of reflections, which is enhanced by the author’s beautiful drawings, Shattuck frames his personal journey from despair to delight against the backdrop of six outings inspired by Thoreau’s mid 19th-century excursions. The result evokes not just Thoreau but Annie Dillard, and is a significant addition to what British nature writer Robert Macfarlane has called 'the literature of the leg' ... There is a sharp divide – both temporal and emotional – between the first and second halves of Six Walks ... With its lovely illustrations and thoughtful insights about nature, love, and friendship, Six Walks celebrates taking time to see what really matters.
... handsomely printed ... intimate ... If you have ever been intimidated by hiking memoirs—the ones that feature semi-rugged, scruffily bearded males equally adept at climbing waterfalls and kindling a fire with nary a match in sight—then Six Walks, by turns gently self-ironical and shyly lyrical, is the book for you ... The author’s comedic talents are formidable and the characters he creates hard to forget.
As Shattuck chronicles the six ambitious walks he takes over the years in warmly confiding prose and expressive, richly textured drawings, he also recounts passages in Thoreau’s life and quotes from his writings, notes how invaluable Thoreau’s meticulous documentation of the living world is to scientists, and marks how dramatically human endeavors and climate change have altered the land since Thoreau took its measure. Shattuck’s involving and poignant chronicle of immersions in nature, misadventures, family history, and a love story is shaped by his preternatural gift for discerning the essence of each moment and each place.
... resplendent ... Shattuck traipses from quiet elegy to compassionate celebration through a series of jaunts patterned after Henry David Thoreau’s rambles ... What started as a distraction turned into six separate treks, vividly brought to life here in Shattuck’s poetic retelling ... Echoing Thoreau’s brilliant reflections with his own, Shattuck distills the healing power of nature into a narrative that’s a pure pleasure to wander through. Fans of Annie Dillard will find this mesmerizing.
The narrative sputters when it shifts to Shattuck’s time in Rhode Island, where family had lived, his relationship with his wife, Jenny, and an unfortunate accident years ago with a boat’s gunwale that resulted in the loss of the top part of his middle finger. Reliving Thoreau’s hiking and canoeing adventures in northern Maine’s Allagash Wilderness Waterway gets Shattuck back into his enthusiastic, poetic stride, describing the same black flies that had also accosted Thoreau, listening to bird song, and observing a double rainbow ... Wistful and meditative, sparked by lovely prose.
In the second half of these six walks, the author has recovered from his heartbreak and, perhaps inevitably, the work reflects this loss of urgency. Yet Shattuck shrewdly navigates the shift, turning his attention to the usefulness of sorrow, how underappreciated our painful moments are when we are in them ... In writing of his walks, the author hits a few helpful notes of atonement, acknowledging Thoreau’s racism toward Native Americans and his own privilege ... He also addresses larger sorrows of our time, including the impact of climate change on the beaches he walks. Mainly, though, Shattuck seeks to comfort himself, and his book is thus comforting. Grief in various permutations has become a near-constant companion to thinking people in our time, and so it seems we all could use a good, long walk right about now, something to restore our spiritual balance. And who better to guide us than Thoreau, whose writing, like his walking, is tireless, the antithesis of a teenager Shattuck hears shrieking on the side of a mountain that she is 'Not. Having. Fun.' And there’s the point. It’s not that life is without its agonies. It’s the sweetness in the sorrow that is captured in this writing, along with the natural world’s endless invitation to solace.