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The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit    by Shirley MacLaine order for
by Shirley MacLaine
Order:  USA  Can
Pocket, 2001 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Marian Powell

What do you do if you're sixty years old, a world-famous actress, author and mystic? If you're Shirley MacLaine, you undertake The Camino. This is a famous five hundred mile pilgrimage across Northern Spain. Its official name is the Santiago de Compostela Camino. This book makes a good companion piece for another one reviewed here, Sister Karol's Book of Spells and Blessings. In that book, a Catholic nun embraces much of other traditions. In The Camino, Shirley MacLaine (who is identified with the New Age movement) embraces a medieval Catholic religious tradition.

In the Middle Ages, making a pilgrimage to a holy site was a respected tradition. It formed the basis of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. One of the oldest and still used trails is the Santiago de Compostela Camino that runs for five hundred miles into Spain. Nowadays people often drive or take the bus, but tradition says you should walk to have the full benefit of the experience. Shirley MacLaine elected to walk the entire route. She had a number of reasons for doing this but essentially she wanted to have the complete experience.

What follows is a remarkable journey. Physically it was grueling. The author was to walk five hundred miles in a little over a month, a remarkable feat for anyone, especially a woman of sixty years. Much of the time she was alone or accompanied by people she met along the way. However, as word went out that the famous Shirley MacLaine was there, the reporters descended. She spent considerable time and energy dodging them and relates a number of funny and irritating stories.

Most of all, she relates what she experienced, what she felt and what she learned. She had a number of dreams and visions and she shares these too. Her experiences and conclusions are very New Age. A quote at the end of this fascinating book will illustrate her thinking. On page 300, she says 'I had walked the Camino in order to understand what we were capable of as human beings - such spiritual magnificence and such destructive fragmentation of our own souls.'

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