Everyone, at some point, suffers the trauma of a close relative dying. It is never easy and such disturbing events often become pivotal moments in the lives they touch. In Walking the Earth’s Spine the tragic death of Jono Lineen’s younger brother becomes the catalyst for him to move to the Himalayas and spend eight years amongst the world’s highest mountains. The experience of those years culminates in what becomes the focus of his second book, a four-month, 2700-kilometer, solo trekking odyssey from Pakistan to Nepal. The hike was the first of its kind, no-one had ever attempted to walk the length of the Western Himalayas alone, but Lineen’s intentions were more psychological than physical, the trek was about immersing himself in the Himalayan culture he had grown to love, assimilating the wisdom of the place and using it to come to terms with his brother’s death.
What makes Lineen’s work unique is his insight into the cultural and spiritual background of the region and his solo approach to the trek. His many years in Central Asia afforded him unsurpassed access to the mountain range and an ability to translate the complexities of the Himalayas for a Western audience. Lineen’s openness in being with whomever he meets on the trail, from Pakistani military officers to Tibetan lamas to naked Hindu Saddhus helps generate one of the most complete portraits of the Himalayas ever written. Other books have focused on single areas or specific communities – Jono Lineen, a single, disarming man, crosses borders, languages and religious boundaries to find his way.
The book traverses genres, it is the adventure story of the first man to walk alone along the length of the highest mountains on earth; it is an account of one person’s interaction with the Himalaya’s three great religions; it is a meditation on the joy of walking and, at its heart, it is a literary confirmation of humankind’s ability to come to terms with the loss of a loved one.