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Title: Kevin’s Last Walk (A Father’s Final Journey With His Son)
Author: Barry Adkins
Binding: Paperback
Genre: Non-fiction, Adult, YA
Publisher: KLW Publishing, LLC
Pages: 211
Publication Date: 2011

From my TBR

I first heard of Kevin’s Last Walk when Denise Cassino, whom I follow on Twitter posted parts of the story and I was so moved by what I read. I then asked my cousin in the US, Yvonne to send me a copy of the book which she did. I’m so grateful to Denise and Yvonne.

Imagine losing your son the very day he moves out of home to be with his friends after completing High school. It is not something that any parent would wish for himself and certainly that was the last thing that Barry Adkins wished for himself. A month earlier, Kevin, 18 years, was in high spirit. He had just bought his first vehicle a Ford Ranger, and the day that he moved, the truck carried his worldly possessions to the new home he was to share with his friends. The day that was supposed to mark the beginning of Kevin’s adult life turned out to be his last. He died of alcohol poisoning at the party he friends organised for him.

In 2007, Kevin’s father, Barry set out on an epic one thousand four hundred (1400) mile journey, and walked from Arizona to Montana with his son’s ashes in his backpack because he was determined that something good would come out of his son’s death.

When you lose a child the most that you can hope for is that something very good would come from it  that is precisely what I plan to spend the rest of my life doing.”  (Barry Adkins)

Kevin’s Last Walk is the harrowing and poignant journal narrative of Barry’s heroic and selfless effort to keep his son’s memory alive and to ensure that thousands of other youths would not end up like his son did. Throughout the journey from Arizona to Montana Barry gave talks and did presentations at schools and churches and other facilities along the way, on the dangers of binge drinking, impacting on students in a most powerful and unforgettable way. Barry shared his story because he cared about the youth and their decisions and he cared enough to want to reach out to parents as well to make them prevent the tragedy that happened to him.

The narrative is simple, straightforward and short with the unfolding events of the whole journey, including the inspirational  talks and presentations recorded almost daily in a journal or diary form. The pathos felt in the narrative is very much understated; readers are not subjected to any sad lengthy tale of the circumstances surrounding Kevin’s death. That event is mentioned only as a background to the story to let readers know that Kevin had died and why. The main plot is all about the remarkable journey from Arizona to Montana.

The pervasive humour that runs throughout the novel is meant to put readers at ease and make them enjoy the otherwise  arduous and rugged journey and as I read along, it was so obvious to see why Barry laughs at himself; he had to live above the tragedy and make something good come out of it. This is a mantra that he repeats at the end of each chapter.

I thoroughly enjoyed Kevin’s Last Walk and felt so saddened at the same time.  And that set me thinking. As parents, do we do enough for our children in terms of inculcating the right values in them to cushion them against the future? What is the guarantee that our kids will turn out the way we want them to, with the right choices?

A woman at my church recently lost her only son who was doing his Masters programme, in a lorry accident. The young man and his friends were from the disco and the one who was driving had taken in alcohol. Her devastation was total and yet some members insinuated that she had not brought up her son in a way that befitted Christian principles. I could not agree less. You do your best for your children, bringing them up with and on the right values but in the end the choices they make when they reach adulthood are beyond you as a parent. You can only hope for the best and in a worst situation like Barry’s hope that something good would come out of that worst situation. In that something good is the opportunity and ability to forgive yourself.

I wholeheartedly recommend Kevin’s Last Walk (A Father’s Final Journey With His Son) as a must-read to all parents and young adults as well