Zoe, an artist from California, and Martin, an engineer from England, find themselves on The Chemin, also known as the Camino de Santiago. It’s a centuries-old pilgrim route that ends in Santiago in northwest Spain. They plan to join other walkers following the route, each having their own reasons for doing so. Zoe recently lost her husband in a car accident and Martin is recovering from an acrimonious divorce. He’s also testing out a cart he’s designed that might replace the need to carry backpacks on this journey.
I’d never heard of this sojourn, let alone this region of France. The cast of characters encountered along the way made this a unique reading experience. Walkers take different approaches to the trip, some staying in hostels, others in private homes or hotels. Zoe started the walk alone and found herself intersecting with Martin and his cart throughout. Theirs was a relationship that had a rocky start that eventually evolved to amiable, with starts and stops to something more. They’d take “two steps forward” and then…
I struggled with the beginning of this story with all the technical talk of equipment, kilometers and gear related to the Camino. But somewhere along the line, I became fully invested in these people, the things that were driving them to do this walk and their experiences along the way. It’s told from Zoe and Martin’s points of view, alternating sometimes in parallel and others in a cleverly connected way (you have to pay attention so you don’t miss those moments!). I loved both narrators, Simon Slater and Penelope Rawlins, for their storytelling skills and their distinctive capture of all the characters in the story. I ended up loving this book and found the ending delightful.
(I received an advance copy from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review)