4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

2013 dawns and Guy Stagg has decided that he wants his life to take a different direction. Having suffered for years from mental illness culminating in a nervous breakdown, he is desperate for a way to get better. He had decided to walk the 3,400 miles from Canterbury to Jerusalem as a pilgrim and an unbeliever, hoping that the ritual of walking will heal his mind. He would walk at the pace that suited him, following the ancient pilgrimage paths and relying on the generosity of strangers to give him shelter and nourishment.

Leaving the UK at that time of year meant that when he got to the Alp he was going to be walking over the mountains in the winter. This was the first of his many physical and mental challenges that he faced on his walk, some days were easier than others and he was lifted by the assistance that he got from people that he had never met and was likely to never see again after he walked on in the morning. As well as private homes, many of the places that he stays are monasteries and convents. They provide conversation and food and he slowly gains an insight as to why some have chosen to step back from society and follow a different agenda. Meeting these different people with their own slightly different interpretation of the Christian faith gives him insight into the way that modern religion works compared to the saints, missionaries and martyrs of times past. Across Europe, people are slowly losing their faith, but oddly pilgrimages are becoming more popular, for a whole raft of reasons for those that undertake them.

Staggs main aim of his pilgrimage was to overcome his own personal mental health issues. It is a tough walk back from the darkest points of his life so far. There is a rawness to the writing, understandable, given what he has been through and continues to suffer from, as he walks. But it is also a contemplative and meditative walk across Europe to the Middle East discovering that humanity does still exist in these troubled times.

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