Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

The Power of Making Memories: A Review of NOT WITHOUT MY FATHER by Andra Watkins

Below you will find my Goodreads review of Andra Watkin's new memoir Not Without My Father. Before you read on, I wanted to mention that Andra has created an amazing Make a Memory campaign for this book. Her own experience creating a memory with her father is one that she will carry with her forever, and she hopes that others will join her in that path. What will you do to make a memory today?


Full disclosure: I appear in this book. It's a little surreal reading about your own experience through the eyes of another person--someone whom you had only met in the virtual world of blog writing, and yet who you spontaneously decided to join on what was, perhaps, one of the biggest adventures of her life. I had many reasons to join Andra on the Natchez Trace, but that is a story for another time, another place (another memoir?).


I also, don't know how to review a person's memoir. How do you comment on someone's memory or interpretation of their own life experience? How do you respond to something so personal as the journey of a woman who simultaneously walks the 444 mile Natchez Trace and redefines her relationship with her aging father in powerful and life changing ways?

I think the only way you can really respond to someone else's memoir is by how much you connect with the journey and the hidden lessons inside it. I have read memoirs that seem like pure self-indulgence, where I cannot see or understand the universal life lessons and just felt like I was reading someone's private journal. Andra's story is not like that. She is honest, and shares many private (and sometimes disturbing) moments but it is in that honesty that we can find the truths that we all understand and can relate too:
  • the dream of doing something that leaves our mark on the world
  • for writers the unspoken fantasy that somehow we will beat the odds and wake up one day as best selling authors
  • the yearning to feel love and share special moments with our parents
  • the fears we face as we watch them age, and feel our lives stretching forward and backward.
Andra's book does all these things and more. My tears started flowing during my own chapter in it--not just because of my own memories but because I realized a truth that touches my life. I am "without my father" and I so wish I wasn't.

[caption id="attachment_8444" align="aligncenter" width="618"]One of my favorite long ago photos of me and Dad making a memory. One of my favorite long ago photos of me and Dad making a memory.[/caption]

This book is for anyone who has a dream, but fears the journey. It is for anyone who struggles to find meaning in life. I am honored to have been even the smallest part of that, and it gives me hope that somehow I'll carve my own path. However, I most likely won't walk 444 miles to do it.

[caption id="attachment_8471" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Published by Word Hermit Press. Available through Amazon and other online sources. Published by Word Hermit Press. Available through Amazon and other online sources.[/caption]
Can an epic adventure succeed without a hero? Andra Watkins needed a wingman to help her become the first living person to walk the historic 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. She planned to walk fifteen miles a day. For thirty-four days.

After striking out with everyone in her life, she was left with her disinterested eighty-year-old father. And his gas. The sleep apnea machine and self-scratching. Sharing a bathroom with a man whose gut obliterated his aim.

As Watkins trudged America’s forgotten highway, she lost herself in despair and pain. Nothing happened according to plan, and her tenuous connection to her father started to unravel. Through arguments an laughter, tears and fried chicken, they fought to rebuild their relationship before it was too late. In Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace, Watkins invites readers to join her dysfunctional family adventure in a humorous and heartbreaking memoir that asks if one can really turn I wish I had into I’m glad I did.

Buy now at the following outlets (buttons borrowed from Andra's blog)