HILLWALKING by Katy Ridnouer


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Ridnouer’s debut novel relates the gentle spiritual journey undertaken by three American women living in Dublin.

The number three manifests throughout this tale of longing for meaning and love, and no more so than in the trinity of women examining their mundane lives in Ireland’s Fair City. Uprooted from the U.S. by their husbands, Jamie, Christy and Heather come together as hillwalking companions. They are drawn to Glendalough Valley in the Wicklow Mountains, where rises and vales of dewy green shelter ancient stone churches and holy wells—an apt backdrop to this meditative story. Each woman carries a burden of lost children or illness, and they wander unhappily through life until each finds a passion that transcends mere occupation. Heather becomes intrigued and artistically inspired by Saint Kevin, the founder of Glendalough’s monastic settlement; the 6th-century monk’s philosophies illuminate her own spiritual style, one in which Celtic paganism lies just beneath the surface. Christy, desperate for a baby, befriends a lonely girl in her apartment building, while Jamie, the skeptic, becomes captivated by the labyrinth at Glendalough and begins work on her own spiraling path. The women alternate between closeness with one another and their children and a growing distance from their unsympathetic husbands. But it’s not all reflection and insight: Heather and Jamie’s likable children are a nearly constant, squabbling and pouting presence. Ridnouer balances poetic descriptions with extremely casual, often pointed dialogue, peppered with words like “whatcha” and “didja.” She also does a fine job portraying the temporal, frequently amusing details of an expat American’s life in a city more than 1,000 years old. At heart, this novel is a spiritual quest, with portents, metaphor and prodigious symbolism. In time, each woman arrives at the end of her winding path changed in some quietly momentous way.

A story as observant and thoughtful as the lives of Irish monks; rewarding for contemplative readers.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1463768270
Page count: 251pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2012