My Pilgrim's Heart is unlike any book I've read before, and yet it's strangely familiar, as if reading it has awakened in me something long forgotten. Maybe it's because it reminds me of theological books I read in my university days, studying Religious Studies at McGill University; not the stuffy textbooks about nineteenth century German philosophers, but the modern, personal accounts of applied philosophy, of practical theology (two of my favourites of these were by Father Thomas Ryan).
And Stephanie Dale's story is certainly one of applied philosophy. This book is a memoir of the author's "pilgrim's path" walk from Rome to Istanbul with her grown son (who was actually travelling from Canterbury on foot), a journey that is as much about spiritual and personal meditation as it is about travel. As Dale recounts her trip, she also reflects on her life before, during and after the walk, specifically the fragile state of her recent marriage. Though she may not be able to save her marriage, she is able to come to terms with why it wasn't working and what wasn't working in herself.
As I write this, I suppose it sounds trite. Oh, she went for a walk and she found herself. But the book does not sound trite at all. It is sincere, reflective, poetic but not flowery, moving but not twee. I loved it for all the reasons I hated Eat, Pray, Love (it's the anti-Eat, Pray, Love). Where Elizabeth Gilbert was affected and entitled, Stephanie Dale is open and sincere; where Gilbert was pompous and showy (look at me praying! look at me dating Italians! look at me being amazing!), Dale is vulnerable and thoughtful. Plus, she walked like a billion miles so she's entitled to be a wee bit philosophical (or delirious or whatever) by the end of it!
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. I was asked to post an honest review (though not necessarily a favourable one). The opinions expressed are strictly my own.