Title: No Problem, Mr. Walt
Author: Walt Hackman
Format: Print copy mailed by author
My rating: 4/5
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.
Mei wen ti (No problem) is the Chinese junk Walt Hackman has constructed years after his son was killed and he and his wife divorced. How ironic as Walt faced several setbacks in the 2-year build of the junk. I was pleasantly surprised by this memoir as I had not delved much into stories set in Asia nor know little about the culture/heritage. Hackman took a different approach with his narrative as he intertwined his life events with that of China’s history, providing context to us readers as we learn of certain ways, policies, and lifestyles of China. Though significant, there were some history that felt as if I was reading out of a textbook because of how it read in the middle of a personal narrative.
To some degree, I wonder if the move to build an ancient-designed junk boat was part of a mid-life crisis. Yes, Walt had unfortunate events that triggered something so different and unexpected, and I wonder when I reach a time in life when things are rough, what would be my junk ship? Walt’s experience in the Navy seemed like a perfect fit when it came to engineering the junk and researching for accuracy. Another thing I admired was how invested Walt was in learning and acclimating to the Chinese culture as much as a white foreigner can – reading up on the history, learning the lay of the land, and meeting with natives to help them practice their English. I admire his commitment as well as building relationships along the way as he respected the customs.
This is the kind of story to be told because of how unique it is and how we can really find ourselves when we go outside our comfort zones. I feared that when it came time for the junk to be finished, that Walt would think Well, now what? and feel that the whole construction was a cover for how he coped with traumatic events in the past. It makes me think about it’s the journey, not the destination which is why I find myself starting projects/bold endeavors and fearing the end of those timelines.
Read No Problem, Mr. Walt if you like the themes of:
- Moving on
- Chinese culture/history
- Rebuilding a life