A journalist chronicles his month-long, 500-mile trek with his grown son along one of the world's most famous pilgrim routes.
Sibley's (Northern Spirits: John Watson, George Grant, and Charles Taylor—Appropriations of Hegelian Political Thought, 2008, etc.) accounts of his trip were originally published as a series of articles in 2000 in the Ottawa Citizen, where the author is an award-winning senior writer. At 57, "an age when memories claimed more and more of [his] waking thoughts," Sibley followed through on a promise that he would take his son Daniel on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, or the Way of St. James, a journey beginning in France and ending in Spain, after Daniel's college graduation. He makes clear this isn't a guidebook, instead referring to his story as a "phenomenology of pilgrimage." Sibley occasionally converses with people along the way and during evening stays at hostels, but the bulk of the narrative tracks his internal monologue. He toils with a series of existential issues, ruminating on life's necessities, his desire to conquer the mountains, the trail's rich history and his own long-forgotten memories. He quotes a wide variety of writers, including T.S. Eliot, St. Thomas Aquinas and Pico Iyer, to name just a few. During the journey, his physical discomfort dissipated and his mind quieted, although his secret hopes that the divine would be revealed remained unfulfilled. Sibley has a finely tuned appreciation for close-to-the-ground details, and his descriptions are deep and sincere without being overly earnest.
Appealing reading for those interested in memoirs about the Camino de Santiago and other epic modern-day treks.