Displaying her "real talent for conjuring far-flung times and places," Kathryn Harrison tells the mesmerizing story of her 200-mile pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. In the spring of 1999, Kathryn Harrison set out to walk the centuries-old pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela. "Not a vacation, " she calls it, "but a time out of time." With a heavy pack, no hotel reservations, and little Spanish, she wanted an experience that would be both physically and psychically demanding. No pain, no gain, she thought, and she had some important things to contemplate. But the pilgrim road was spattered with violets and punctuated by medieval churches and alpine views, and, despite the exhaustion, aching knees, and brutal sun, she was unexpectedly flooded with joy and gratitude for life's gifts. "Why do I like this road?" she writes. "Why do I love it? What can be the comfort of understanding my footprint as just one among the millions? ... While I'm walking I feel myself alive, feel my small life burning brightly." Throughout this deeply personal and revealing memoir of her journey, first made alone and later in the company of her daughter, Harrison blends striking images of the route and her fellow pilgrims with reflections on the redemptive power of pilgrimages, mortality, family, the nature of endurance, the past and future, the mystery of friendship. The Road to Santiago is an exquisitely written, courageous, and irresistible portrait of a personal pilgrimage in search of a broader understanding of life and self.
Retraction:Publishers Weekly wishes to retract the review ofBorn to Steal by Gary Weiss (Forecasts, Mar. 24). Several statements (that "Weiss covered Pasciuto's story forBusiness Week in the 1990s, and he is almost fond of the man and his cohorts"; that Louis Pasciuto "borrowed money" from Charles Ricottone; that Pasciuto testified against Ricottone; and that Ricottone was convicted of racketeering) are incorrect.PW apologizes to Mr. Weiss for the errors.THE ROAD TO SANTIAGOKathryn Harrison. National Geographic, $20 (168p) More memoir than travelogue, Harrison's contribution to National Geographic's Directions series is reflective and deeply personal, yet still manages to recreate a physical place in all its rugged, peaceful glory. The titular road is a 400-mile path beginning in France and ending in Santiago, in northwestern Spain. A thousand-year-old pilgrimage route, the road can be walked in segments or in total, and Harrison (Seeking Rapture; The Kiss; etc.) touches upon her three separate trips along the camino. She bravely some might say illogically makes her first pilgrimage (in 1992) solo (solita), when she's seven months pregnant. Her second and perhaps most significant voyage along the camino comes seven years later, alone again. The third trip, which she makes with her 12-year-old daughter, is the one that begins this book, and kicks off the series of lessons Harrison learns along the way. Traveling with an adolescent, Harrison discovers "the grace to quit." As she walks "toward the invisible, the improbable, the ridiculous," the author discards extra soap and leaking bottles of sunscreen in an effort to lighten her pack (although she refuses to toss the pages of her novel-in-progress, as it defines who she is). She meets other pilgrims and some intriguing locals, continually "putting one foot in front of the other," an act which, on its own, is not dramatic, but "can wreak inner havoc." In rearranging her priorities (e.g., does she have enough water to make it to the next town?) and admitting defeat (which has an oddly relaxing effect), Harrison comes to learn and indeed, teaches readers the importance of acceptance. Map not seen by PW.