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The Best Way: El Camino de Santiago By: Bill Walker “Skywalker”

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bill Walker and his nephew Gavin travel a pilgrimage from France to Spain; their destination is the great gothic Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. Along the way, Walker describes his fellow travelers and the small villages that they pass through. He describes the food, the hostels, the landscape, and the level of interest in the World Cup. He describes the religions and the level of spiritual interest that he and the other walkers have as they travel to the presumed final resting place of James, the apostle.
I didn’t expect to enjoy this book so much! Maybe I’m just a busybody, but I like to hear about the personalities, friendships, difficulties, romances, and squabbles along the road. The history that Walker interjects is so interesting, especially since it usually coincides with a place or person along the trail. His tales about the bull running in Pamplona, Hemingway, the Inquisition, the effect of the Catholic Church on learning in Europe, the history of the Basques, and so much more just kept me turning pages. The interaction between middle-aged Walker and his teen nephew about sickness, trying new foods, and figuring out where to sleep made the story personal. I found his insights about his walking companions to be intuitive; he also genuinely seemed to like them all…to find some good quality to praise or to see some characteristic to gently laugh about. He seems to fall into stereotypes when describing different cultures; however, it sounds like he has good, amusing examples of their behaviors to back up his opinions. Just like the tiny older women who are fascinated by his height, the fact that he is 6’11’’ somehow adds to his impressions of the trip. Walker nearly always focuses on fellow travelers who are younger than himself. Perhaps he found the older trekkers lacking in interesting stories; or perhaps, he was more likely to team up with younger people who Gavin might prefer. It would have been nice to hear about married couples or families who were making the pilgrimage, but even without those added stories, I really enjoyed reading The Best Way. The book is a great way to experience Northern Spain.

Four and a Half Stars

*Reviewed by Colleen*

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This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews.