A debut memoir recounts a 500-mile journey of self-discovery in the footsteps of St. James the Greater.
One man’s struggle with—and solution to—the depression that dogged him is the subject of DeVaney’s book, the chronicle of a six-week pilgrimage to visit relics of the patron saint of Spaniards. A Roman Catholic from the cradle with a fondness for European adventures, the author decided on a walk along Spain’s Camino de Santiago after being moved by Emilio Estevez’s depiction of such a trek in his film The Way. DeVaney’s odyssey began in the foothills of the Pyrenees in the town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Not all of his fellow travelers looked friendly at first glance, but the author soon came to understand the “pilgrim glare,” made up of “pain from the day’s walk and uncertainty regarding where you are and where you would be staying that evening.” A good sport throughout it all, DeVaney notes but does not linger on the hard beds, mediocre food, and long days of muddy hiking in the rain. He found great pleasure in the companionship of the scores of fellow explorers he dined with, walked alongside, and slept among, but, even more, he treasured his time alone. The author met actors, journalists, retired stockbrokers, and a cellist with a documentary film crew in tow. As he wandered on foot, he reflected on some of the more amusing (and, occasionally, heartbreaking) stories of his years as an altar boy, police officer, and realtor. DeVaney is a solid researcher and well-informed traveler, providing brief and engaging histories of the places he visited (Hemingway’s escapades in Pamplona; El Cid’s exploits in Burgos). Indeed, there is little casual readers might want to learn about such a pilgrimage that the author fails to skillfully relate. He clearly took meticulous notes along the way, and he incorporates them here with care. DeVaney vividly recounts that the trip lived up to its spiritual promise, offering time for him to contemplate the meaning of his life and the multitude of small blessings he read as “winks” from God (“I would often look up at the sky and wink back as a big thank-you”).
A pleasant and chatty odyssey through northern Spain and the memories of a thoughtful wayfarer.