“Treacle Walker” by Alan Garner is probably the strangest book I’ve ever read. Even with a font size appropriate for a children’s novel, it’s only 152 pages. It’s a quiet Sunday morning novel you can read from start to finish before lunchtime. But don’t be fooled: its length in no way reflects its impact. For nearly a week, I have been curious and amazed by this little book. It’s not even a sucker. “Honey Walker” is more of a slow burn — a simple story that’s both heavy and complex.
From a genre point of view, “Honey Walker” is a surrealist novel, whimsical and bizarre. The plot tells the story of an ordinary boy, Joe, who meets a strange man named Honey Walker. They made a bizarre deal (Joe gave the man pajamas and a lamb shoulder blade in exchange for a jar and a stone) that allowed Joe to see and experience the most bizarre things he’d never been aware of. Reality. Comic book characters jump out of their pages, and the tiny swamp suddenly becomes infinite and inevitable. A lot of weird things happened, so to speak. Joe explores this strange new world, occasionally aided by the mysterious Treacle Walker, who seems to know what’s going on but never explicitly explains anything. There’s also a sense of isolation in this novel—Joe doesn’t seem to have any friends, family, or even neighbors, and nearly every character he interacts with is part of his mysterious new concept.
As you can imagine, the novel is confusing at times and can be confusing to readers. Garner’s work is very lengthy, with only a few pages per chapter, so you might think “Syrup Walker” would be tiresome and tedious to read — but its frugal writing backfires. The mysterious stillness leaves the reader immersed in the story, grabbing every word with ecstasy, and cherishing the sheer wisdom and truth that make this novel so compelling. Phrases are repeated throughout the novel: “What you see is what you get,” “I heal everything; save jealousy,” “Never.” Throughout my reading, I felt like I was missing at least half of the deeper The subject – not because of lack of focus. A lot is happening in each sentence. Garner came up with a million different ideas, but never articulated them; it was all unspoken. That’s the wonder of “Treacle Walker”: it’s a book you can read over and over and see something new each time.
In many ways, this is the story of all people and all journeys. Joe lives his life, heading in one direction without deviation, only to discover that there is more to life than he knows. This drastic realization changed his life and required him to make a choice: he could either grow with his new knowledge of the world, or put on the blindfold again and continue on his old path. “Honey Walker” is a common story. Regardless of your age, socioeconomic background, gender, ethnicity or political affiliation, we face life-changing realities. Sometimes they are loud and dramatic, like the death of someone close to you or a major personal failure. Other times, they are quiet. It could be the kindness of strangers, it could be an amazing insight into someone you think you’re familiar with, or it could be the painful realization that you’re not who you think you are. But at every juncture in our lives, we can choose to grow with our ever-changing views of the world. If you are lucky, look back at yourself in 10 years and smile.
For Joe, there’s a lot of frustration with the change in his life – this kind of ridiculous thing that keeps happening – and he complained to Treacle Walker that he never asked for any of it to happen. The old man replied, “‘I can restore your blindness…if you will, do a good deed.'” Joe has the ability to fully restore his simple, comfortable life and give up the special vision he has acquired.He grapples with this conflict throughout the book and ultimately chooses to keep the gift because of what he experiences in this novel meaning iss things. At the end of the novel, Joe considers everything that happened and asks, “Honey Walker, am I dead?” The old man replies, “I wouldn’t say you’re dead. Instead, in this world, you’ve changed Your life, into another place.”
Being human is all about changing, taking these life-changing moments in stride and growing. In this way, Garner exhorts his readers to look for what really matters; a search for true meaning and life beyond the emptiness and busyness of everyday life. In keeping with the silent tone of the novel, Garner doesn’t tell us exactly where to look or how to find it. He only promises that those with intense pursuits can find meaningful, purposeful lives.
Daily Art Writer Pauline Kim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.