Richard Paul Evans feeling some pain of his own

By Carma Wadley

Deseret News

Published: Saturday, April 2 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT

Author Richard Paul Evans shows off his new book, "Miles to Go."__Author Richard Paul Evans says his goal is not to provide just an entertaining read, but an experience. He also wants to remind people that there is a power to hope.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

When last we met Alan Christofferson — the Seattle businessman who lost everything and decided to walk to Key West in Richard Paul Evans' "The Walk" — he had awakened in a Spokane hospital, in intense pain, following a mugging and stabbing.

Little did Evans know how much pain there was. But in a classic "life imitates art" event, Evans himself was "mugged" by a rogue wave while body-surfing in St. Barts two months ago. The wave slammed him into the beach hard enough to break four ribs and shatter his shoulder.

"I'd never broken anything before, and I couldn't believe how much it hurt to breathe, to cough, to move. I only wish it had happened before I wrote the book; I'd have felt Alan's pain even more."

However, both Evans and the fictional Christofferson have recuperated well. "Doctors who looked at my shoulder said it was the worst they'd seen in someone who hadn't died. At the time, I thought I was going to die. But it turned out I didn't even need surgery; the muscles held the broken bones in place until they could get the shoulder immobilized, and it has healed remarkably well."

As for Christofferson, his story picks up in "Miles to Go: the Second Journal of The Walk Series." Christofferson's journey is put on hold while he painfully recuperates, but he is taken in by a woman he met days before on the road — a woman named Angel. And over the next few months, it becomes clear to Christofferson that he is there to help Angel as much as she is there to help him.

Angel is just one of the people whose life becomes entwined with Christofferson's as his journey continues.

There are actually three stories woven into "Miles to Go," says Evans. Angel's story is one; interaction with an aging-out foster girl Kailamai is another; and lastly comes the grueling walk across Wyoming, which feels much like the Greek king Sisyphus pushing his rock up the hill, and a surprise encounter in South Dakota.

After the first book in the series came out, the most frequent complaints Evans heard were that it was too short, and that people didn't want to wait a year for the next installment. "Those are actually good things," he says. And while the next installment won't be out until next year, "Miles to Go" is about twice as long as "The Walk," he says.

That's not the only difference in the book. For one thing, it covers many more miles. But for another, "up until now, everyone Alan has met has been there to help him. Now, he realizes he can be of help, too."

Christofferson's experience with Kailamai is one partially based on a true story that has touched Evans' own life. The real Kailamai "is the most hopeful person I ever met, who had the crummiest life. She was beaten and abused every week of her life, and you wonder how she even managed to survive, let alone become so positive."

Her story also helps call attention to the problems of youth who are aging out of the foster care system, something that Evans' charity, The Christmas Box House, has been working on in recent years.

"Not many 17- or 18-year-olds can live on their own in the best of circumstances. Statistics show that within 24 months, 60 percent of those who leave foster care will be homeless, incarcerated, pregnant or dead. We've started to provide them with Life Kits that provide some of their physical needs, such as sheets and towels, as well as information on contacts, were to find help, how to get in school. Ideally, we'd like to hook them up with mentors; mentors are the surest way to success."

They are now providing Life Kits in five states and hope to spread to more. "We are losing too many of these youth," Evans says.

He had not heard from Kailamai for a couple of years, as he and his daughter were doing a research drive through Coeur D'Alene, Idaho. "We knew she lived in that area, but had no way to contact her.

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