Monday 10 August 2020

Booth, Cathleen "Mercy & Grace on the Camino de Santiago"

Booth, Cathleen "Mercy & Grace on the Camino de Santiago" - 2020

"Sometimes it’s doing the thing that terrifies you that really helps you grow."

Before I begin with the review and you wonder why I'm so fascinated by this story, the author is a friend of mine. (Although, having said that, you probably won't wonder because she is a great storyteller.) For years, we've been attending the same church and since our birthdays are only a couple of days apart, we've been enjoying a coffee or lunch together in between. I have taught not just her daughter Madeleine in RE but also the other girls that walked the Camino with them. And my whole family knows all of the "Eleven Amigos", as the group called themselves (great name, by the way) and their families. They are some of the loveliest people I have ever met in my life and reading about their experience was so wonderful for me. Thank you, Cathleen, for including me in this trip in this unique way. I know I can't give you enough credit with my humble review but I hope it will instigate a few people to read the book.

And here I am right in the middle of it. I am sure anyone who reads this book must feel the same, whether you know the pilgrims or not. I knew Cathleen could write since she had written a personal blog for years (much more personal than my book blog).

In her prologue, she tells us how the idea started, how she wanted to go but was too afraid. I totally understand, I would have been, as well. Actually, I am, that's why I never went even though I know a lot of people who did. But with my back problems, I couldn't even do a quarter let alone half the walks they did, even without a backpack or "mochila". No, that train has left.

But here I am with Cathleen and her friends, listening to (or rather reading about) them as they plan and prepare their trip, as they meet to drive to the airport, as they join the next members somewhere between here and Santander. We hear about the first dinner, the first night in one of the albergues, the first breakfast. They leave the hostel every morning and walk for a while before settling down for breakfast in one of the many cafés along the way.

Their walks tend to be between twenty and thirty kilometres. Hats off, Cathleen and friends. Even though you seem to be at the end of your tether from time to time, you soldier on and don't lose sight of your goal. Together you are strong. I am also grateful that Cathleen belongs to the slower part of the group because that's where I always end up. Makes it more authentic for me.

They meet a lot of lovely people along the way. I have always heard that from anyone who walked the Camino. If you're on that way, everyone is your friend. How lovely to tackle this in such a wonderful community.

There are many wonderful stories in the book about companionship, soul-searching, finding your way to yourself and to God but there are also some hilarious stories, as well. No wonder, when Cathleen and Lila (the friend who invited her to the trip) are together. I remember having been told many of them eye-to-eye, so reading about them makes it almost as if they were here.

I know all the kids have made it into adulthood and listening to their parents they have become just as wonderful adults as they were children. Well done, everyone.

But thank you, Cathleen, for this wonderful report about your Camino. We all can learn from your big heart.

You can find more information (and more pictures) on her website.

I always enjoy reading about other parts of the world and get to know them but I also love reading about the parts that I know. And here, not only did I know all the members of the group, I also know the area where Cathleen lived (as we can see in her pictures in "Training Days", I was also there when our friend Maria showed her pictures in church which was when many of us heard from someone who had experienced the pilgrim themselves.

I also loved that Jim Forrest, another author I highly admire, wrote the introduction.

I have read another book about someone on the Camino de Santiago, German humourist Hape Kerkeling. Also, a great story about someone whose life changed after doing this spiritual journey.
Kerkeling, Hape "I'm off then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago" (German: Ich bin dann mal weg. Meine Reise auf dem Jakobsweg). I think, the fact that his account has been translated into English says it all.

From the back cover:

"'Sometimes it’s doing the thing that terrifies you that really helps you grow.'
These words, spoken in love by a friend, motivated 300-pound Cathleen Booth off her couch and onto the Camino de Santiago. Cathleen’s physical limitations quickly shattered any illusions of self-sufficiency and pride. On a muddy mountainside in Spain - at her most vulnerable - Cathleen would experience from her friend a self-sacrificial love that would ultimately change her from the inside out. Equal parts humor, humility, and heart, Mercy & Grace on the Camino de Santiago invites the reader on a deeply intimate and human spiritual journey."

And if you want to know about Cathleen's sense of humour, Mercy and Grace is what she called her walking boots.


  1. I had never heard of the Camino de Santiago. I'm happy to learn about it. In the US we have two famous walking trails that follow mountain ranges. The Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. I have read books about hikers on each one. What an adventure!

    1. Nice that I could add to your knowledge there. We all can find out more, no matter how much we learned already.

      There are lots of trails in Europe that you can walk but the Camino is something special. It's a pilgrim's way that spreads through the whole of Europe but if you walk the last 100 kms until you reach the tomb of St. James, you get a religious certificate.

      I have read a great book by Bill Bryson about him walking the Appalachian Trails, A Walk in the Woods. I'm sure you know that one, as well.