27 Days a Pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Despite quadruple heart bypass surgery, hospitalisation due to a complete mental breakdown after losing his younger son to chronic diabetes, and being plagued by self-doubt at having to walk 25 kilometres per day for an entire month, 64 year-old Australian author Michael Thornton sets out to trek the iconic 800km Camino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage across northern Spain. More
Despite quadruple heart bypass surgery, fear of failure, and concern also at being labelled a copycat for repeating the theme of the movie The Way—walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in memory of a lost son—64 year-old Melbourne writer Michael Thornton takes on the often gruelling 800km Spanish pilgrimage.
Michael’s 27-day trek from St Jean in southern France to Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain is plagued by self-doubt at having to walk 25 kilometres a day for a month.
Strange events occur. Michael tells of becoming lost in the dark yet being followed on a secluded stretch of disused highway by a figure resembling Saint James, the apostle to whom the Camino is dedicated and whose remains lie in the Santiago Cathedral.
We meet friends Michael makes along The Way, including Robbert (“two ‘b’s because my mother stutters”), from Holland, and Janis, whose husband Rick back home in Vancouver is livid with Michael for telling family secrets in his nightly blogs. Rick threatens Janis with divorce if she returns from Spain a Catholic. “If I come home a Catholic you definitely won’t be getting a divorce,” she tells him in a text message.
Pilgrims in the town square at Logrono ask what they must do to be included in Michael’s nightly blogs, which they say everyone is reading. Michael replies, “Have you ever stolen anything?”
Michael’s epic pilgrimage is an honest, humorous, and breathtaking account of one man’s physical, mental, and spiritual journey in memory of his son, Jamie. “At least we’re not burying a dead son,” says Jillian, from Sydney, during a coffee stop. (It’s a reference to the movie, The Way). “I am,” says Michael. The table goes quiet; Jillian is devastated.
Then there is the night Michael is asked to sing a solo at Mass in Carrion de Los Condes, although tears for Jamie nearly bring him undone.
This is one Camino memoir you won’t want to put down.
Michael Thornton has been a chorister, cowboy, journalist, fundraiser, consultant, board member and international volunteer. He is the author of JACKAROO, a memoir published by Penguin in 2011 and nominated for the National Biography Award.
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