My first introduction to the Camino de Santiago was when I went to watch The Way starring Martin Sheen with my friend Christine. Both of us felt the pull of the walk by the end of that movie and Christine set about making plans to actually do it, but then her life was ended by illness within a short time of announcing her plans.
Christine’s desire to walk the Camino came flooding back the second I withdrew the advanced review copy of Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist from the envelope, and I couldn’t help smiling and thinking about her, while also feeling sad that she never had the chance to fulfil that last ambition. I wish I could share this book with Christine because she would have loved it as much as I do.
Only three things are certain on the Camino… The first is blisters. The second is that when you arrive at the Santiago Cathedral, you will cry. The Camino will change you. It changes everyone.
The novel is told from two alternate perspectives and each voice is completely unique and compelling. Californian Zoe is a broke artist whose husband has passed away, while Yorkshireman Martin is an engineer who’s feeling bitter after divorce and he’s looking for a way to make money. Both are walking the Camino, the pilgrim’s passage from Cluny in France to the Compostela de Santiago in Spain, where the remains of St. James are said to buried. Along the Way they both begin to untangle a lot of emotional baggage.
Martin is clever, stubborn, determined to do everything on his own terms and has a sarcastic wit which can come across as arrogant and brusque at times, an attitude which can occasionally places stumbling blocks along the road for him.
Zoe is warm, friendly and engaging but has lost her sense of identity in some ways, which can lead her to make assumptions at times that can set her back.
The title ‘Two Steps Forward’ is perfect for this novel as it epitomises the phrase ‘two steps forward and one step back’ as Zoe and Martin are brought together and pulled apart along this journey. At times they don’t feel that they’re moving forward at all on their individual journeys but they are every step of the way despite the occasional set back.
As readers follow Martin and Zoe along the Camino they will learn many useful tips and how to avoid the mistakes that these two characters make. The trials and tribulations along with the joy and camaraderie of falling into step with complete strangers at different points along the Way are vividly brought to life, as are the key points of interest and spectacular scenery.
You may find yourself drawn towards walking the Camino by the end of this wonderful life-enhancing reading experience. Which is exactly what authors Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist, who have have walked the Camino, hope you will do:
This book was inspired by the people who walked with us, who welcomed us, and who mark and care for the Way. We hope it will inspire others to undertake their own journeys.
With thanks to Two Roads publishers for this unexpected treat.
Buy the book here.
Follow the authors on Twitter: @GraemeSimsion @anneebuist