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Martin Mutka
The Pilgrim Soul in You
Martin Mutka, author

The Pilgrim Soul in You is the poignant narrative of Will Merritt, a bright college graduate from the East who moves to San Francisco in the early ‘80s to pursue his MBA.  There he meets Laura McKenzie, a beautiful, young law student from a prominent Northern California family.  The two are drawn to one another by a similar sad event in their past and that connection fosters a relationship that blossoms into affection and commitment. 

Will Merritt’s story is both his unique journey and the timeless telling of universal themes of love, loss, and the inevitable search for inner peace.  When tragedy strikes, he must confront this overwhelming heartache, but through this journey, he discovers the friends he has helped along the way are in fact his path to redemption—that despite its changing nature and composition, family is the most important element of life.


This moving debut novel from playwright and author Mutka follows Will and Laura, incoming graduate students at Golden Gate University, as they build a promising future together. Will, who quickly falls for Laura after their first meeting, finds the belonging he’s always searched for in Laura’s “close, tight-knit, successful, upper-middle class family,” a welcome respite from his grief over losing both parents and his only brother. Laura is no stranger to loss herself—her father died when she was only six years old—and the couple immediately bonds over their shared experiences, building a strong foundation in this appealing romance.

As Will and Laura move in together to pursue higher education and career goals, they join forces to shepherd Laura’s brother, Rob, as he enters rehab for a drug addiction, and Laura supports Will’s securities jobs while prepping to pass the bar exam herself. But all is not as perfect as it seems, and when tragedy strikes the pair shortly before their wedding, readers will empathize with the couple’s stunning highs and painful lows. Mutka lays bare their emotions and exposes their heartache in raw, meaningful prose: “I learned you can gain deliverance from your suffering through your actions and that those actions affect your life path,” Will reflects when looking back on his painful personal journey.

An emotional rollercoaster from the beginning, Mutka’s romantic elements play more towards realism than fantasy, in a way foreign to the genre at times (Will notes that life's greatest fulfillment comes from "being together and loving each other”), and Mutka delivers a happy ending, but it comes at a great cost. Still, readers will relish the natural bond that develops between Will and Laura as their mutual affection spills effortlessly across the pages, a testament to their willingness to “endure the pain” that often accompanies tremendous love.

Takeaway: A story that captures the beauty and pain of intense love.

Great for fans of: John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars; Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You.

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