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on 1 August 2017
An enjoyable read about pilgrimage in general and about three in particular. Lewis - Kraus writes in an approachable, accesible manner about his experiences and draws up valid interesting conclusions that resonated exactly with my own having also completed the Camino De Santiago, He's able to fulfill that difficult task of combining humour and sadness through self - deprecation and willing to expose himself metaphorically as he makes peace with his father. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, especially the Camino section, nodding my head many times with a "Yes! That happened to me too!" Highly recommended.
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on 19 November 2016
I did not find that it was well written and I found that his reflections on his pilgrimages were superficial. This might be because he is realativey young and did 3 journeys from 3 different religious traditions, perhaps too much too fast. The aim of all of these journeys seemed to be to sort out his problem with his dad, which of course was not resolved. He doesn't seem to have moved from his esssentially ego centric position in spite of all this effort. It's a shame. A few years with a good analyst might help.
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Gideon Lewis-Kraus' memoir is rich in humanity, humor and a zest for life. "A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful" takes us from an anything-goes lifestyle of parties and booze in Berlin to the physical endurance and mental fortitude required to do three pilgrimages and many hundreds of miles in Spain, Japan and the Ukraine. The first was Spain's thousand-year-old Camino de Santiago with a friend, the second a solo circuit of Japan's eighty-eight Buddhist temples on the island of Shikoku and the third the annual mass migration to the tomb of a famous Hasidic mystic in the Ukraine with his father and brother.
It's also a story of pain, promise and forgiveness. Much of it Gideon's desire to avoid the kind of constraint that kept his father, a gay rabbi, closeted until midlife.
Gideon's insightful book is also thought-provoking. He saw Spain's Santiago pilgrimage as Christian as the trail is a strait line and it's about the future. The devout walk it to get-out-of-purgatory. The Buddhist trail is a circle around the Shikoku and it's about the present. The Jewish pilgrimage is a dot in the middle of the Old World and it's about the past. He said, the first was about finding a sense of direction, the second about returning to where he started and the third about knowing where he stood. He also observed how the pilgrimage helped him pay attention to the low-level distress and indignity of people he was not all that keen on. It became clear to him that forgiveness has to come first because part of that gesture is reconciling himself that there's never going to be any real, satisfying redress.
"A Sense of Direction" is not only Gideons story, but our story. It's an epic inner and outer odyssey into coming to terms with what has been, what is and how to move forward.
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on 20 April 2014
I enjoyed reading the report of pilgrimages but found the first part really boring and too long. Worth reading the whole book.
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on 3 August 2014
A tad self indulgent really. Useful as background material for these two walks, but other than that, I wouldn't put much store by it if you want a 'spirituality' of the walk, very Generation Y in fact.
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on 31 March 2014
Gideon Lewis-Kraus’ debut book, A Sense of Direction, is a compelling travel memoir that is full of humour, history and hope. Lewis-Kraus had moved to Berlin in the hope of both finding himself and escaping the emotional turmoil of his family life but instead found himself living the kind of banal existence that he could quite easily have managed by staying at hope. In a last ditch attempt to shake off his ennui, Lewis-Kraus embarks on three historically life changing pilgrimages – the Camino de Santiago in Spain, a circuit of eighty-eight Buddhist temples on the Japanese island of Shikoku, and a visit to the tomb of a famous Hassidic mystic in Ukraine – that cause him to question his search for purpose in life and understand how both the past and the present are necessary to shape the future. A Sense of Direction does feature a fair amount of trustafarian angst and anger but once you settle into Lewis-Kraus’ writing style and begin to understand his character, the book opens up into a humours, inspiring story of a man undertaking a series of fantastic, grueling journeys while at the same time trying to make peace with his own life.
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on 8 April 2015
This book is neither one thing nor the other, nor the other, nor the other. It flits between themes (reflection on the material experience of a given pilgrimage, father / son tension, reasons for pilgrimage, essay pulling together others perspectives on pilgrimage) clumsily and often pretentiously. I ended up taking dislike to the author and to his lifestyle. There were admittedly parts of the book which I enjoyed, observations on life and travel that I could associate with and which made sense to my 50 year old father of three, reasonably well travelled self. Regrettably though (given that I'm afflicted with the need to finish a book that I've started regardless of how little I'm enjoying it) these parts were few and far between. Goodness knows why it became radio 4 book of the week. All that being said It hasn't put me off walking the Camino de Santiago at some future point having first been given the idea by the aforementioned radio 4 broadcast.
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