There is no shortage of books chronicling the pilgrim’s path to Santiago de Compostela. From travel guide to personal memoir, spiritual exploration to historical documentation, there is something for every armchair pilgrim who wishes to travel the Camino by way of words. This week’s book review focuses on a book written by a pair of married peregrinos from the United States, and how their journey tested their boundaries – as a couple, alone, and as part of a larger whole.
In Movement There is Peace: Stumbling 500 Miles Along the Way to the Spirit was written by Dr. Elaine Foster and her husband Joe Foster. The couple decided to walk to Santiago de Compostela almost on a whim, soon after Elaine resigned from her longstanding position as psychologist with the US Air Force. After years of counseling battleworn soldiers, she knew that it was time to address her own, sometimes overpowering, issues with anxiety. When Joe, fighting some demons of his own over the unexpected death of his beloved father, suggested it was time for a vacation, neither expected that they’d soon be boarding a plane to Spain to spend the next month navigating the ancient Camino Frances.
Constructed as both travel memoir and a series of daily lessons in overcoming anxiety, In Movement There is Peace explores a variety of topics relevant to both pilgrimage and everyday life. From learning to try new things, to coming to terms with sharing thoughts of disappointments or sorrow, to discovering what it means to truly give in and trust your life partner, the book examines how the simplest of actions – putting one foot in front of the other – can spark some of the greatest life shifts.
Clocking in at 308 pages, the book is organized in chapters loosely reflecting each day’s journey along The Camino, with Elaine and Joe each providing separate written descriptions of the day’s events. This allows the reader to not only see the journey from two points of view, but to also explore how very differently two people – even two people who spend every waking moment together – can see the same events. Travel enthusiasts will enjoy Joe’s descriptions of Spanish landscapes and history, as well as his ruminations on death, adventure and the mysterious ways of his life partner. Elaine’s bravery in discussing her own issues with social anxiety, trust following divorce, a somewhat shaky spiritual life, and the incredible physical pain she faced every day of the pilgrimage somehow only makes the trip seem even more worth its costs. Along the way, the couple meet a lively cast of characters who share their journey, peppering the story with laughter and tears as they all make their way to Santiago de Compostela.
For those thinking of taking to The Camino with a traveling companion should definitely read In Movement There is Peace before setting out on the journey, but that doesn’t mean that lone pilgrims should put this one aside. This is an excellent addition to the shelves of any would-be peregrino or peregrina.