No Problem, Mr. Walt is a poignant travel memoir written by father, businessman and easy-going voyager, Walt Hackman, about his travels throughout China during his extraordinary quest to build an authentic wooden Chinese Junk boat.
Walt’s memoir is an account of personal tragedy and tenacious triumph. It’s about the adventures and experiences of making unlikely friends despite significant language barriers; achieving an improbable dream against all odds; and the culmination of the “first step of a thousand miles” that changed his life forever.
Filled with humor, drama, mystery, intrigue and suspense juxta-positioned with Chinese anecdotes, poetry and recipes, “No Problem, Mr. Walt” is an absorbing account of how, despite unimaginable heartbreak, Walt’s extraordinary journey to build a wooden boat ultimately began the rebuilding his life.
Song For This Book: Wooden Ships by Crosby, Stills & Nash
Why? This is the song that played in my head while I read this book.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
This story follows the story of Walt Hackman’s journey as he attempts to build a Chinese boat called a junk after suffering a couple of rough hands in his life. As far as a reset in your life, this is a pretty original one. It’s quite the journey too. There was a lot of travel, research, and difficulties that lead up to the completion of the junk, and you’ve got to give serious credit to Hackman for sticking it out until the end.
This is one of those books that has a rating based on my own personal preference, rather than any shortcomings that I found within the story. The writing’s good, the story’s well presented, but it’s just not my thing. I would probably have not finished it at all, but I really wanted to know what happened with the boat in the end, especially with all the difficulties Hackman had throughout the journey.
The Good Points of No Problem, Mr. Walt:
I loved Hackman’s voice in this story. The one thing that kept coming to mind as I read was that Hackman tells his story with child-like enthusiasm. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s so easy to get into his mindset about the whole thing, and you find yourself getting excited about this boat too.
The best part of this memoir are the random little anecdotes about things that happened while he was in China. I have no idea what compelled Hackman to include the little stories about meeting people in parks or going shopping when they are completely unrelated to anything else in the story, but these are definitely highlights of the book.
You’ve got to give Hackman some major credit when it comes to how he talks about the difficulties he comes across throughout this process. It’s not a travel memoir without communication mix-ups and misunderstandings or cultural differences. And the way that he talks about these things is brilliant. I like that he approached it with a ‘this is how it is’ mindset, rather than laying blame one way or another.
The pictures that have been included in the book are great. They definitely add to the story, and give you a sense of what is being talked about in the book.
The Downsides of No Problem, Mr. Walt:
There is a lot of history in this book. If you’re like me, and you prefer to hear or watch stories of history, it makes it hard to get through. I studied a bit Chinese history in university, so I was familiar with a lot of things referenced in the story, but I honestly skipped 90% of the history lessons.
I went into this story wanting to hear about how the boat got made and that process. But a lot of this book doesn’t deal with that particular story. Half or maybe a bit less is actually dealing with the boat, and the rest is a bunch of history or anecdotes or other completely unrelated things. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been more about the boat.
This memoir seemed a little unfocused. You have the two broad topics of China and building the junk, but everything and anything seemed be in included. You’d be reading about the boat, only to find yourself in the middle of a history lesson or a recipe or the steps to making the perfect Peking duck. And while I did enjoy the random anecdotes, it made the story hard to follow, because it was hard to tell what was actually important.
All in all, it’s not a bad book, just not my style. Hackman had quite the journey, and it was definitely interesting to hear about it, I just wanted more about building the boat, and less of everything else. If you are interested in the Chinese culture and history, in addition to the journey of building the junk, you’ll probably love this memoir.