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Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail

3.08  ·  Rating details ·  262 ratings  ·  58 reviews
“With echoes of Flannery O’Connor, Faulkner, and Raymond Carver” (A.M. Homes), this singular psychological tale of murder unfolds against the backdrop of one of America’s most breathtaking landscapes.

In the vast wilderness of the Appalachian Trail, three hikers are searching for answers. Taz Chavis, just released from prison, sees the thru-hike as his path to salvation and
Paperback, 195 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2012)
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3.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  262 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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T.L. Sherwood
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail is full of unexpected characters on a journey none thought they would take. It is a dark, honest novel where Simone Decker’s theory that each human is born with a flaw in their DNA is raised in every chapter. Are people just running through a genetic program they cannot alter and that makes them do what they do? Is change even possible?

Newly released prisoner Taz Chavis is ready to reject the old patterns that led to his spending time in prison. A book he rea
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: natural-history, noir
fairly unique novel of thru hiking the appalachian trail, many times done as a pilgrimage or attempt to drastic change in the individual, much like the camino de santiago del compestelo trails in spain, though of course more "americany" and "back-to-naturey" in n. amer version, with no big ass pile of a catedral at the end. the end of the appalachian trail is a big ass mountain in maine, katahdin
but these pilgrims here we follow, are coke head ex-cons, a
Oct 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail by T.J. Forrester

Taz Chavis is unfortunately following in his father’s footsteps, as his dad was addicted to pills and Taz to coke. He decides to change his life by thru hiking the Appalachian Trail which starts in Georgia and goes all the way to Maine. On the way he meets fellow hikers that are also trying to start over or make something end.

This is the total opposite of Bill Bryson’s Walk In the Woods as these seem to be the kind of people who would be hunt
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Gripping but ultimately too dark and bleak for my taste. The pace was quick and so the book was just the right length.
Kristy Gillespie
Apr 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I’d recommend Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail by T.J. Forrester to anyone who enjoys a gritty, dark, compelling tale. And to anyone who ever questions whether or not they have free will.

The Appalachian Trail runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Katahdin, Maine; 2,160 miles total. It takes five to seven months on average to complete; people usually start in March or April and finish in late summer or fall. Hikers who attempt to complete the trail in one season are called “thru hikers.”
H. P.
Oct 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-spec-fic
Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail is the story of Taz Chavis finding himself. Recently released from prison, and after traveling to his hometown to settle his father’s estate, Taz sets off on a through hike of the Appalachian Trail to leave his life in the gutter behind.

The Editorial Reviews compare Forrester to Daniel Woodrell and Cormac McCarthy, which is unfortunate. Forrester suffers for it. It doesn’t have the deep sense of place in the hills like Woodrell’s works set in the Ozarks or Mc
Tricia Dower
Oct 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
More story collection than novel, the stories are loosely connected through references to the Appalachian Trail. The most compelling for me are the seven tracking Taz Chavis’ journey along the Appalachian Trail. Forrester writes Taz in a distinctive first person with vivid raw details that ring true. Taz is a fascinating character with a criminal past trying to escape an addiction to drugs and a fear that his genes and his obsessions have doomed him. He sets out on the trail after colorful encou ...more
Mar 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Things to like about this book: its length; colorful, often over-the-top, characters; a variety of ages and situations are represented; the setting just lends itself to good characterization. I grew fond of the main protagonist, Taz Chavis, and was rooting for him to stay focused on his goal of completing the trail.

Some problematic areas: heavy drug use and crass language (can we just find another word for crotch already?). When I say "crass," please know I am not a prude. But the language used
Oct 27, 2012 rated it liked it
I think I might have liked the book a bit more if one of the reviews on the back didn't cast it as making The Road by Cormac McCarthy seem like hallucegenic cotton candy. It set me up with certain expectations for a book that this book simply wasn't. Forrester has a great story with strong writing, especially in the little vignettes of some characters that are really peripheral to the story at best. There were a few details that probably brought my rating down from a 4 to 3 but discussion would ...more
Nov 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up-on
Gross, promiscuous, prolific sex is not very interesting nor is it uplifting. Nor is the use of drugs and alcohol. I love the outdoors, hiking and find it very wholesome and I have read several books on hiking the AT. Sex can also be very wholesome, but as I always say in my reviews, "PEOPLE! it is a PART of life, not the whole of it."
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Stayed up late last night reading to the end of this book, as Taz Chavez came to the (satisfying) end of his hike. I especially enjoyed the intersections of other characters from the towns the trail passes through. The shifting points of view brought a nice new twist to the traditional "hero's journey" narrative.
Oct 09, 2018 rated it liked it
The cover blurb from A.M. Homes read like a personal list of my favorite items found in books. From "the weird heart of American darkness" to name-checking O'Connor, Faulkner, Carver, and McCarthy, this seemed like the perfect story for me. What I discovered is sometimes the end result of mixing your favorite ingredients isn't always satisfying. Furthermore, the back-cover summary hints at suspense and mystery surrounding the deaths of several hikers on the Appalachian Trail. But we know exactly ...more
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
This novel felt more like a series of short stories had been chopped up and rearranged to mostly-kinda-sometimes relate to each other. I feel there were too many narratives for a book under 200 pages, and enough gratuitous sex to fill a far longer book than this. Don't get me wrong; I like a steamy scene as much as the next person. What I don't like is when it's thrown in just as something to do, like any other overly used plot device.
Rich Wagner
Mar 03, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a tough book to review.There were definitely parts on the actual trail that I enjoyed.But there were other stories that seemed a bit random and just seemed to be like page fillers
.Overall it was a likeable look of those walking the Appalachian Trail.
Brian Tucker
Sep 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Hmm. Compared to McCarthy's The Road. I don't see it.
Sep 30, 2017 rated it did not like it
Poor, poor, poor dialogue. Yikes.
Mike Pouy
Mar 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
Horrible book. Poorly conceived, poorly written, terrible plot, terrible character development. The worst piece of fiction I've read in many, many years.
Aug 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Odd book.
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I sat down today and read this in one sitting , it’s a very short book but really good I love the writing style , I was thoroughly engrossed.
Jan 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Everyone who sets foot on the Appalachian Trail (AT) writes a book, blog, journal, or an essay. Forrester has not only traversed the trail itself but also written from self-exploration and although not a trail guide, he’s put as much knowledge and lore into the storyline as a David Miller trail journal. This one adds darkness to the peacefulness of the long-distance hike.
Taz Chavis, recently released from jail with a yearning for open-air freedom and a chance to make a clean break from an alcoho
Jul 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Taz Chavis, while serving time in prison, is informed that his father committed suicide. Returning to Wyoming briefly, Taz discovers that he has inherited $9000, which is more than enough for him to realize his dream of walking the Appalachian Trail. While "thru-hiking," he runs into a few people who become friends: Richard, the Blackfoot Native who struggles with alcohol addiction and his desire to do something more than sell tires for the rest of his life, and Simone, a laid-off scientist who ...more
Jul 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The lead character in Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail is Taz Chavis, recovering coke head and ex-con, who, while still in jail, is drawn to the idea of thru-hiking the nearly 2,200 mile length of the AT. Not only will it help him shake his drug habit--and the temptation of drugs that city life will offer--but it will cleanse his soul, allow him change into the man he wants to be. At least, that is the idea.

Once out of jail (and after tying up some loose ends), he hits the trail, out of sha
Aug 07, 2012 rated it liked it
This review originally ran in the 10/1/12 issue of Library Journal:

The Appalachian Trail is a source of restorative power as well as sudden violence in Forrester’s second novel (after Miracles, Inc.). Taz Chavis, an ex-con whose long-estranged father has recently committed suicide, is seeking to sober up and reclaim his life by hiking the 2160-mile trail. He meets fellow thru-hikers Simone Decker, who struggles to control a potentially fatal compulsion, and Richard Nelson, a Blackfoot Indian giv
Dec 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Pretty dark, but a definite page-turner. Not much character development except to tell the main character's story, but I enjoyed how all the slightly bizarre pieces of the puzzle fit together. You will cheer on Taz, the greatly flawed, yet incredibly human ex-con as he climbs his way out of his troubled past and heads to the trail that calls his name. His message is we CAN change our outcomes, that we are NOT completely doomed to our fate, but that it's a huge struggle, and you may just have to ...more
Ann M
Nov 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Desperate characters, bad desires, great writing.

Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail is a trip through the darkness at the heart of several lives. Beautifully observed, and unflinchingly detailed.

Taz, a cokehead trying to walk away from his painful history and addiction meets Richard, a drunk, making time out of his Indian heritage, and Simone, a tortured soul convinced of the futility of reform. We meet other characters, hikers there for the party, former hikers turned Golden Age swingers --
E. Adeline
This book was nothing like I had expected it would be. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't amazing, either. The characters could have been developed more, and I would have liked to have seen more of the experience on the actual AT. The book is less than two hundred pages, but like six narratives are introduced and while they intertwine, having all of those POVs in such a small span of time meant it was harder to really dig beneath the surface of the characters. Plus, the "big mystery" is basically give ...more
Jan 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Are people capable of change, or are we stuck with fundamental flaws? I like to think we can change. And despite some characters' inability to do so, I like to think that the author agrees.

I liked the writing and some of the characters (especially Taz and Leona). I loved the descriptions of the trail, and wanted more, but the trail was at best a peripheral backdrop. The trail is's a challenge...but the far larger struggle for each character is within their own minds.

Forrester has a cl
Apr 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
Grim book with heavy-handed, continual references to questions of nature vs. nurture. I enjoyed the descriptions of the trail, and many of the vignettes were interesting. I didn't mind that the connection between some of them was tenuous...too much of the main story would have been just that, too much. Seemed at some times like dice were being rolled to determine what disastrous situation would occur next ((view spoiler) ...more
Sep 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015, fiction, scary
What's more challenging than thru-hiking the Appalachian trail? In Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail, it's probably getting off the trail alive.

Ex-con Taz Chavis is trying to rebuild himself from the ground up through physical exertion and overcome his criminal past. Along the trail, he meets Simone and Richard who are also trying to out-hike their pasts in one way or another. As they hike the trail, people die, but are they falling off the precipice or being pushed?

This was a fast read, may
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
Received this one as a gift. It is supposed to about three AT thru-hikers during a year when deaths are occurring all along the trail. As far as that goes, okay, but this book is actually almost a series of vignettes concerning people who live along the trail as well. Not bad stories but far from what the book was supposed to be. Also not a very well-developed transition between all the characters and the various "stories". A bit of a disappointment that you may not be able to put down because y ...more
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T. J. Forrester, an international novelist, has been a fisherman, construction worker, and miner. A trekker with more than 17,000 miles on his legs, he thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail in consecutive years.

He wrote Miracles, Inc. and Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail while living in Virginia. The attic room was small, chilly in the wint