Pilgrimage Reading: Grandma’s on the Camino by Mary Wyman

Grandma's on the Camino: Reflections on a 48-Day Walking Pilgrimage to SantiagoGrandma’s on the Camino: Reflections on a 48-Day Walking Pilgrimage to Santiago by Mary O’Hara Wyman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I included this in my “pilgrimage” reading although I’m planning to go to the Holy Land which is a quite different sort of pilgrimage.

Mary Wyman has an entry for each day of her solo walk to Santiago. Each includes the daily postcard she sent to 4-year-old granddaughter Elena, a journal entry from that day, and a longer reflection from after the pilgrimage was completed. I really enjoyed the format, especially the ways that Wyman connected with her granddaughter in the cards by asking questions or suggesting little activities like “count to 36 out loud with Mama to see how many days Grandma has left to walk the Camino (paraphrased).”

I found a lot of the book fascinating and almost feel as if I’d been along for the trip. Certainly I was just about as concerned as Mary that she get to lodgings in time for a lower bunk and that her feet would hold out. Mary’s vivid descriptions of the people and nature all around her, as well as her inclusion of insights and spiritual experiences all combined to make this a very good book.

It isn’t a perfect book though. As a 70-year old woman from San Francisco, Mary has all the stereotypical attitudes of that demographic. Push the right button and the standard liberal attitude comes popping right up. Luckily it was rare enough to avoid ruining the book for those of us who don’t share those attitudes. In fact, it often provided humorous moments such as one day’s reflections on the huge list of women who have influenced her life, when contrasted with a later day when she struggled to make a list of 15 influential men in her life because it never occurred to her to think of such a thing. She later added to that list but with so many qualifications that she may as well not have bothered. I actually laughed out loud.

More problematic were the two or three times she recorded long conversations about topics dear to her heart and went into so much detail that the book essentially ground to a halt. I realize that this book is to provide a legacy for Wyman’s granddaughter, so it made sense from her point of view to write so many pages about such things as Centering Prayer and the Jobs Corps. However, the tone completely changed to a preachy-teachy style that is deadly unless one also is passionate about those topics. I ain’t.

I mention the imperfections to explain my 3-star rating. As a whole, they are relatively slight as witnessed by the fact that I read this book in a couple of days, riveted to the pilgrimage.

About Julie Davis

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