Publication Date: 5.1.18 (U.S.)
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks #parter
Page Count: 353
Why I read it: The publisher sent me a free copy for review, and I was happy to do so because I loved Simsion's first novel, The Rosie Project, and wanted to read more from the author.
Synopsis: From Amazon-
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Rosie Project comes a story of taking chances and learning to love again as two people, one mourning her husband and the other recovering from divorce, cross paths on the centuries-old Camino pilgrimage from France to Spain.
“The Chemin will change you. It changes everyone…”
The Chemin, also known as the Camino de Santiago, is a centuries-old pilgrim route that ends in Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. Every year, thousands of walkers—some devout, many not—follow the route that wends through quaint small villages and along busy highways alike, a journey unlike any other.
Zoe, an artist from California who’s still reeling from her husband’s sudden death, has impulsively decided to walk the Camino, hoping to find solace and direction. Martin, an engineer from England, is road-testing a cart of his own design…and recovering from a messy divorce. They begin in the same French town, each uncertain of what the future holds. Zoe has anticipated the physical difficulties of her trek, but she is less prepared for other challenges, as strangers and circumstances force her to confront not just recent loss, but long-held beliefs. For Martin, the pilgrimage is a test of his skills and endurance but also, as he and Zoe grow closer, of his willingness to trust others—and himself—again.
Opening Sentence: "Fate took the form of a silver scallop shell in the window of an antique store in the medieval French town of Cluny."
My Thoughts: I was pleasantly surprised by this! I'll admit, I went into it with some reservations. The comparisons between this and Wild by Sheryl Strayed are inevitable, and I didn't enjoy Wild. However, I was immediately sucked into the story of Zoe and Martin and thought the book was so well done. There are two authors in this book, but the story lines are integrated in a seamless way. Both characters are searching for ways to cope with their problems. They're both dealing with relationships that have ended and grown up children. They are trying to make their way in this new phase of their lives and I enjoyed reading about characters of that age. The authors did not spend a lot of time on build up and jump in, and we get to know more about the pair as they go along. This has a romance element, but it is not cheesy and is not the central arc of the story. The characters were well written and authentic and I genuinely cared about Martin and his wagon and Zoe's ability to face her husband's passing.The characters are flawed and frustrating, but that made them all the more real.
This was also an inspiring book- I learned a lot about pilgrims and the various reasons people have for walking and the ways people go about travel. The authors walked the trail several times in real life, and while there were some passages where I found myself skimming over in the mundane detail it didn't feel like they wrote this to relive their own experiences. I really liked the ending- you'll find the characters showed growth but weren't hit with a 'bolt of lightning' from out of left field to help solve all of their worldly problems.
About halfway through my reading, I noticed the book was available on Hoopla so I listened to the rest on audio. The narration was decent, although I did prefer Martin's narrator to Zoe's. Overall, I thought this was well done. I'd recommend it to people who love to travel, want to feel inspired, or for anyone interested in books with middle aged characters.
Quote: "'We cheat on many things in life,'" said Fabiana. 'But some things matter more than others.'"
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