Summary (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
Returning from the Vietnam War to his native Savannah, Georgia, David Larson feels as “unremarkable” as when he left. This general sense of detachment is evidenced by his unemotional response to the loss of his parents in a traffic accident during his absence and the subsequent ease with which he distances himself from his sister because of her antiwar sympathies.
Purchasing a used car, David motors west. Chance lands him in Slut’s Hole, Wyoming, after he damages the car’s radiator while shooting at a jackrabbit. Forced to spend two weeks in town until his car is repaired, David acquires, in quick succession, a job and a place to stay. His time is largely divided among his undemanding caretaker chores at a highway rest area, his forays into Laramie with his new friend Howard Dale, and his life on the Sixbury ranch.
At the rest area, David engages in largely mindless tasks punctuated only by the daily arrival of the red-haired, gold-toothed prostitute Cecile, who offers entertainment to truckers, and by the short stopovers of highway motorists such as Damon Zacks, a preacher fascinated by the view from the cliff at the edge of the parking lot. David’s periodic trips to the city of Laramie are marked by barhopping and brawling and by an emotionally empty relationship with Sarah Newman, a counselor in the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The heart of his existence, however, is the Sixbury ranch. David develops a close, comfortable relationship not only with Chloe Sixbury, the ranch’s elderly owner, but also with the land. “He liked the people and he loved the terrain,” Everett writes. In addition to helping out with the chores, David involves himself more and more in the affairs of Chloe and her son, Patrick. After discovering Patrick’s use of sheep as a sexual outlet, he convinces Sixbury to drive with him to the town of Casper to hire a prostitute for Patrick. Although she fails to stir Patrick’s interest, Olivia does become the temporary object of David’s concern and of his misdirected desire to redeem a wasted life.
His quest is interrupted by Patrick’s brief scuffle with his mother after she catches him in a sex act in the barn....
(The entire section is 898 words.)
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
Brown, Rosellen. “The Emperor’s New Fiction.” Boston Review 11 (August, 1986): 7-8. While praising the novel for its skillful organization and its essential hopefulness, Brown laments the fact that Everett has avoided the issues of African American identity, both personal and societal.
Hemesath, James. “Walk Me to the Distance.” Library Journal 110 (March 1, 1985): 102. After a rather thin but pleasing first half, Hemesath writes, the novel turns serious and ugly. Unfortunately, he claims, the characterization, description of setting, and general tone lack the weight sufficient to maintain the author’s sober purpose.
Kirkus Reviews. Review of Walk Me to the Distance. 52 (December 15, 1984): 1156-1157. Although praising Suder as “intriguing but strained,” the review finds Walk Me to the Distance hard to enjoy and hard to believe. Argues that there is “emotional power” in the “David/Sixbury/Patrick triangle,” but that the rest of the narrative is encumbered by clumsy plotting and dialogue marked by “Gary-Cooper-ish grunts.”
Publishers Weekly. Review of Walk Me to the Distance. 226 (December 21, 1984): 81. States that Walk Me to the Distance is hampered by a spare prose style that leaves too much to reader interpretation. Notes that the novel nevertheless provides an evocative treatment of one veteran’s “repatriation.”
Rozié, Fabrice, Esther Allen, and Guy Walter, eds. As You Were Saying: American Writers Respond to Their French Contemporaries. Champaign, Ill.: Dalkey Archive Press, 2007. Includes an exchange between Everett and French writer Grégoire Bouillier; provides insight into Everett’s literary investments, tastes, and poetics.
Smith, Wendy. “Walk Me to the Distance. ” The New York Times Book Review, March 24, 1985, 24. Argues that the novel can be read as a cautionary tale concerning the misplaced desire to escape the problems of the modern world, including the increasingly problematic relationships between men and women, by seeking some imagined frontier. Asserts that the book’s theme and characterization, however, are undercut by a “terseness that verges on blankness.”