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Savoring the Camino de Santiago: It's the Pilgrimage, Not the Hike

Adult; Other Nonfiction; (Market)

Savoring the Camino de Santiago: It’s the Pilgrimage, Not the Hike focuses on the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage trail that began around 820 AD. The author made the pilgrimage in 2016 via the French route from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, a journey of some 500 miles. Her book incorporates a blog and travel journal she kept during that pilgrimage. The book is also a memoir, with Ms. Connor explaining how and why she decided to make the pilgrimage. Savoring the Camino incorporates practical tips for those interested in the Camino. While the prevailing culture of the Camino is to walk the route, Ms. Connor believes that walking is not the only way to undertake the Camino. After completing the pilgrimage, the author journeyed on to Madrid and Toledo, and there are chapters in the book covering those visits. Ms. Connor also recounts activities related to the Camino following the journey. The book includes a useful chapter on resources as well as an index.

Connor, a retired Foreign Service Officer, recounts her experience travelling the Camino de Santiago, a network of pilgrimage routes leading to a shrine in northern Spain, in this pleasant mix of travelogue and advice. In 1971, following a violent assault, Connor dropped out of Rice University and moved to Portugal, where she learned about the Camino. Forty-five years later, she finally devoted the time to walking the French Way along with her son, James. While describing her experiences, she shares practical suggestions on packing, transportation, and the risks of the terrain. Connor’s anecdotes, including an unsettling encounter with a persistent truffle hunter and her son’s development of debilitating plantar fasciitis, provide a glimpse into the frustrations and joys of her experience, as do the brief and sometimes bland journal entries from each of her 50 days on the Camino.

Curious readers will welcome the blend of recollection and travel tips, and Connor highlights the strain of the walk while emphasizing its accessibility for people of varying abilities. Her section on myths about the Camino experience (such as “a true pilgrim walks the whole way”) and her honest discussion of nondescript trail sections, near-impassable shale, and disappointingly closed churches prepare those planning this trip for a realistic, rather than idealized, journey. Connor encourages readers with her stories of personal realizations and spiritual encounters.

In the journal section, line-drawn maps do not contain a scale or distance and are more evocative than practical, but crisp, well-reproduced black-and-white photographs evoke a sense of place for key moments of the journey. Would-be pilgrims will need other resources to fully plan their trips, but this is a good entry point to understand how the route feels and what it requires. This taste of the Camino will spark interest in completing the long trek while highlighting its challenges.

Takeaway: Fans of armchair travel or those exploring their own interest in walking the Camino de Santiago will get a lot from this down-to-earth guide and memoir.

Great for fans of Rolf Potts’s Vagabonding, Rosemary Mahoney’s The Singular Pilgrim.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: B
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A-