- Publisher: Study Girl Books
- Published: December 16, 2021
- Paperback: 307 pages
My Review: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
When faced with an empty nest, Kari decides to spread her own wings. Giving up a job she loves, she sets off to walk across a whole country. A big one.
A contemporary take on an ancient experience, Pilgrim is an entertaining and moving memoir of Kari’s 900km walk to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. In classic pilgrim fashion, she meets and befriends an array of companions along the way, from all walks of life, united by a common sincerity of purpose. Battling through sun and snow, mud and mountains, blisters and bedbugs, her real destination turns out to be “deep peace”.
Initially unsure of the difference between a long walk and a pilgrimage, Kari and her friend, are not sure what to expect as they embark on the Camino de Santiago. Sleeping in hostels and carrying all their belongings on their back takes some getting used to and they are sorely tested by the unrelenting physical challenge of the ‘great trudge’. In the early days they are preoccupied by the external journey.
But soon, like a modern-day Canterbury Tales, Kari and Ali find themselves swept along by a motley band of pilgrims whose stories touch the heart and awaken the soul. Pilgrim brings to life, in vivid detail, the kindness of strangers, the warmth of village hospitality and the sisterhood of the Sturdy Girls. With San Miguel adopted as their patron saint, the Camino becomes filled with beer, laughter and a return to the carefree joy of childhood. There is an unburdening, a sloughing off of the things that don’t matter. Only what counts is left behind.
Pilgrim celebrates communitas, friendship and the resilience of the middle-aged women who keep going when those around them buckle, who bandage the broken, make them dinner and get them back on their feet. Encouraged by the ghosts of pilgrims who have walked the Way for a thousand years, and with no real choice in the matter, she finally slows down, and the pilgrimage becomes a journey to the interior. As she walks her defences are broken down and her heart opens.
On a transformational journey that takes her from the snowy mountains of the Pyrenees, through the dry winelands of Rioja, the mysticism of the Meseta, to the Green farmland of Galicia, a spiritual reawakening occurs. She revels in the utter joy of a frosty sunrise with shadows a hundred meters long, the frogs, and the cuckoo that follows them for miles. The body may be broken but nature has the cure.
Pilgrim is a coming-of-(middle)-age tale. The story is ultimately one of transformation, of rebirth and redemption. Written with warmth and honesty, Pilgrim shows what can happen when we jump off the path we are on and step onto a new one, where nothing looks the same. The question is no longer what do I want to do with the rest of my life? The question is who do I want to be?
I listened to the audio version of this book and it was a delight to hear Kari’s voice, telling us about her pilgrimage. As I listened, my own (solo) Camino experience flooded back. As I kept listening, I felt like CAMINO WANDERING had come to life, with Kari’s Study Girls replacing my own Lovelies. The idea made me laugh.
But I have to admit, I wanted MORE. I wanted Kari to go deeper, talk less about the washing and cooking (the logistics) once we got past all that. And, when Kari did go deeper, it was about her relationship with God. (Granted, it is in the Religious Travel category.) As I looked over the Goodreads reviews, someone wrote: “Too twee and too much God.” I kind of agree with that. Yes, it’s about the relationships between women but it’s also about her relationship with God. And that’s fine. It’s just I wasn’t expecting it.
On the relationship front, it was clear who she was pissed off with, who she wanted to spend more time with, and what she found inconvenient, without her blatantly saying who/what. You could tell by her tone. I found that refreshing. Maybe it’s women’s intuition to read between those lines?
But it made me realise, for one thing, why I wrote CAMINO WANDERING as a fiction, rather than a memoir. I could go deeper into the character’s stories without it being my own admissions.
As an empty nester myself, I felt Kari’s longing for her children, but she wouldn’t know as a parent at that stage of life, that the relationship continues – and it evolves – mainly because she didn’t have a relationship with her own parents. Not a good one anyway. She does talk a little about her relationship with her mother and I think that’s the Cruz de Ferro moment for her. Letting go. Forgiveness.
I wanted to know if she’d discovered what was next or if she discovered who she wanted to be…but you don’t really realise that after after you go home. I just thought that would have been discussed more in the epilogue.
Given there will be more books to come, I guess that’s really the answer. I look forward to whatever else STURDY GIRL BOOKS delivers. Overall, it’s a good book. It’s worth reading – or listening to. For me, I’m taking note of her spa idea in the cities for my next Camino!
Note: I gave this book 5 stars when I may have normally given it a 4 star. Carolyn Gillespie is another female Camino author, and she’s been very supportive of my book, so I wanted to give her some props. Especially since it’s hard to sell books as an Indie author!
Be sure to check out my interview with Kari here.
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