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Fumbling    by Kerry Egan order for
by Kerry Egan
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

In her Afterword, Kerry Egan tells us, 'Life didn't change, but perspective did'. Egan and her fiancÚ Alex participated in a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, the Medieval Pilgrim Route through Northern Spain. It covers a distance of 400 miles, walking eight to ten miles per day in the sun, through unending fields of wheat, vineyards, olive tree orchards and, at times, thick mud. Egan calls her pilgrimage a 'grief to faith journey'. The image of God she had from her upbringing and Harvard Divinity School was broken into pieces upon the death of her father from a debilitating disease.

The pilgrimage was to be a search for Egan, but she was not sure for what and why. She and Alex traveled from Boston to Saint Jean in France. This town at the base of the pass over to the Pyrenees, where northern and western Europeans congregate before crossing into Spain, eventually became the starting point for modern pilgrimages. The route progresses through the valleys of Navarra, westward along the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims had their credenciales (pilgrims' passports) stamped and dated in each town they passed through. Housing was offered in churches, municipal hostels, and in standard hotels. The journey took approximately five weeks.

Egan defines three types of pilgrimages: the modern to Lourdes or Fatima, where miracles occurred; the medieval to Santiago is for the 'journey itself' and a transformation resulting from walking many miles; and archaic is to places considered holy throughout the ages. The Amigos del Camino is a Spanish organization that helped to revitalize and reorganize the modern pilgrimage. The reasons for pilgrimages vary - to fulfill a vow to God; ask for help and healing; seek penance; offer thanksgiving; or 'to go to a place that might be closer to God'. Egan writes about the landscape, humorous occurrences, and moments of revelation. She says of the pilgrimage, 'I think the Camino was not just leading me to a sacred place, but rather, it was leading me to see the sacred in all its places.' She touches upon moments of meditation, feelings of anger, sadness and guilt over her father's death, and honesty about her own flaws.

If I was asked what to expect from reading this book, I would answer that it's about introspection of the pilgrimage experience and people met on the long journey. Fumbling is a spiritual memoir, as well as a perceptive, personal account of Kerry's rediscovery of faith through the act of naturally letting go. Her story is recommended to anyone struggling with grief or regrets, examining religion's place in his/her life, or considering engaging in a different routine for a new perspective.

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