- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Doubleday; 2nd Edition edition (September 28, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385507658
- ISBN-13: 978-0385507653
- Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 35 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #299,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Fumbling: A Pilgrimage Tale of Love, Grief, and Spiritual Renewal on the Camino de Santiago Hardcover – September 28, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
While a student at Harvard Divinity School, Egan found herself immobilized by grief at the death of her father. Almost on a whim, she decided to walk the Camino de Santiago, a medieval pilgrimage route through northern Spain. The narrative loosely follows the chronology of her journey, and she records many of the trip's details, such as coping with the heat, staying in crowded refugios and dealing with the quirks of local residents. But the book is more than mere travelogue. Egan uses various events on the Camino as catalysts to explore such disparate topics as the history of the cult of relics, how she accidentally discovered breathing meditation and her own feelings of anger, sadness and guilt over her father's death. Indeed, when Egan embraces the essay form, particularly when she shares her moments of confusion and weakness on the journey, her writing is confident, sharp and engaging. By contrast, when she ventures into elements of fiction—such as dialogue and description—the writing often becomes strained. Nevertheless, Egan's effective combining of historical and theological musings with personal experience makes for a satisfying account of the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of religious pilgrimage.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Egan was a 24-year-old Harvard Divinity School student when her diabetic father died. A year later, she and her fiance set out on a 400-mile journey from the Pyrenees in southern France through the valleys of Navarra and westward along the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of Saint James are supposedly buried. She gives a brief history of the medieval route over the centuries and writes vividly of her own journey--walking through towns, wheat fields, vineyards, and olive tree orchards, along muddy roads filled with giant black slugs, and running out of water in the scorching 110-degree heat. "While I adored him, he was not always kind to us, his children," she writes of her father. Walking many hours each day, Egan began to understand the concept of grief and the presence of God while overcoming her sadness and anger. The book is a compassionate and unforgettable testimony of her pilgrimage. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Kerry Egan was a Harvard Divinity School student in the late 1990s and had spent the last few years providing care to her grievously ill father. When he died, it left her with a “normal” life she wasn’t prepared to deal with. Though a Divinity student, she was more religious scholar than faithful Catholic, and had at best, serious doubts concerning God’s nature and existence. Crippled with guilt over feeling like she had not treated her father well enough in his last days, and “sleepwalking” through school, one day she serendipitously came upon the idea of a Camino pilgrimage. The idea grew until it possessed her, and she made the decision to take the journey with her boyfriend, Alex.
So Ms Egan’s Camino pilgrimage starts as many contemporary accounts do, with the author being in spiritual-emotional crisis. Usually there is an Inciting Incident that throws the narrator into such a turmoil, they decide to abandon the common world for a while and become a pilgrim. For Ms Egan, the incident was the death of her father, echoing Cheryl Strayed’s incitement by her mother’s death (Wild). Ms Egan’s journey is more religiously grounded, however, (that being her background) where Ms Strayed’s (on the Pacific Crest Trail) was more “church-in-the-wilderness” spiritual. In both cases, the reader is granted a very honest and eloquent recounting of a personal journey.
Ms Egan’s account of the Camino describes it more verbosely than the other’s I’ve read, though it is certainly more than a travelogue. While she shares with us the challenge of elevation changes, walking through miles of mud, enduring fierce heat with no shade in sight, and the annoyance of dogs (which seems to occur in most all Camino accounts) and eccentric residents, these support her real story. That story, of course, is of her spiritual journey and that’s what makes any Camino story inspirational. Ms Egan does an excellent job on that count.
Having a Catholic scholar background, Ms Egan highlights her story with short discourses on pilgrimage, relics, iconography, and the requisite history of the Camino. I found these sections interesting, rather than distracting, and done in a way that highlighted her journey. We never forget that she is an emotional mess, and the scholarly arc never overrides her depiction of her spiritual progress.
She presents that progress on several levels. There’s the physical journey, her dealing with grief, her discovery of God’s presence, and her developing relationship with Alex. The structure of her book reflects that progression in sections appropriately titled from “Fumbling” to “Wonder.” The titles are accurate in describing her progress. In fact, my main criticism is that she should have listed them on a Contents page.
There is much to like about Fumbling. It is one of my favorite accounts of the Camino and of personal journeys to enlightenment. Ms Egan’s personal tone with scholarly highlights is appealing, as are the metaphors she finds on the road (i.e., chickens in a golden cage, Pizza Hut, walking through mud). There are even metaphysical aspects of her journey that reach beyond religion—her discovery of “walking meditation,” and a couple of “soft” paranormal events. It is all done with sincerity in prose that is readable and accessible for someone seeking to learn from her experience.
Early in her book, Ms Egan says:
"A pilgrimage starts the moment you pull the front door shut behind you."
That is the moment of commitment beyond which everything else is tenacity, as Robyn Davidson tells us in Tracks. Finding that moment for ourselves and pushing through to those conclusions we need is the lesson of self-discovery-through-journey books in general, and of Fumbling.
If you’re open to learning from others’ experiences, and to the possibility of enlightenment through personal pilgrimage, you’ll find much help and inspiration here.
Most recent customer reviews
I found myself turning pages hoping to find deeper content.