When I first heard about this book, I thought that it would be just another Camino de Santiago book (of which there are many). But I bought it anyway, because the book's title intrigued me.
I took the book with me on a month-long trip to Argentina. While there, I re-read the book many times. In fact, I'll be reading it again in the future!
The book is a compelling tale of the author and his companion, who decide to walk part of the Way of St. James, which is one of the many "Ways" to the final destination of Santiago, Spain. One of the main things I loved about the book is that the route they walk is not commonly traveled or written about. It's not an easy route to travel, in the sense that there aren't lots of other travelers doing the same thing. It's a glimpse into traveling off the beaten track, but doing it with a bit more style as well as a intimate view of the French countryside.
I've walked this "Way" myself some years back, and this author captures the experience perfectly. He doesn't waste a lot of time with packing lists, complaining about blisters or talking endlessly about church after church. That's all there, but it's understood that the walk isn't an easy one and that discomforts are part of the journey. Instead, he experiences the journey itself, moment by crystalline moment, allowing you to feel that you are walking beside him. His writing allows you to be not just a reader or observer, but a companion to his journey which becomes your own. While the author calls himself a skeptic in the title, by the end of the book he doesn't seem skeptical at all. He seems to have a deeper understanding of his connection to all things and to see that his path in life is an important one. No doubt his book will touch many people and change many lives, perhaps propelling many readers to be courageous enough to voyage out on their own journey of self discovery.
Some of the other reviewers complained that Downie talked to much of history--I wholeheartedly disagree. I found his sharing of historical facts along the way a fascinating in depth look into this part of the world. In fact, I would say that any book about a pilgrim walk does an injustice to it's readers without a historical viewpoint. You can't really understand the Way of St James without understanding the politics and historical events that created it and changed it.
Beautiful photographs, as well. Not just pictures of countless yellow arrows pointing you in the right direction, or of the author smiling beside countless other pilgrims..but of the real, modern day Camino, complete with it's graffiti.
Many of us who have walked the Way of St James (or who plan to) walked it for deeply spiritual reasons. But this book is a very nice bridge between those who walk it for religious reasons and those of us who walk it for sport or for our own inner pilgrimage. The literature of the Way has been severely lacking in books which appeal to both groups, and finally this beautiful book has appeared: a book for the Pilgrim of Life, skeptic and believer alike.
I would suggest this book to anyone who has an interest in the Camino/Way of St. James, but I'd also suggest it to anyone who recognizes that they are on a journey of their own, where ever they are at in life. An inspiring and brilliant book.