Letters from the Way
by Barbara V. Anderson

Incanto Press, Inc, 2014. ISBN 978-1-941-21705-4.
Reviewed by Jude Whelley
Posted on 12/17/2014

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment; Nonfiction: Travel/Adventure

When Letters from the Way found its way into my hands, the cover sent a frisson of excitement into my soul. The title references letters, a walking journey, and France—a trifecta of topics I love. Then there are the cover photographs: a backpack, a rural scene, and a woman walking—gorgeous.

Sometimes a beautiful cover raises expectations unreasonably high, leading to a letdown when the reader opens the book. Not this time! I was delighted when I discovered the end pages. They feature the stampings of Anderson's Creanciale, a sort of passport that the pilgrim (as the Path walkers are called), gets stamped to document her journey. It also provides enough information about the path of St-Jacques to contextualize the reading. My next requirement for an exemplary travel book was met by the inclusion of a map in the introduction and Anderson's explanation as to why she walks and how she came to choose this particular path.

The book is brilliant in its simplicity. There are thirteen weekly letters of varying lengths which update her friends on her experience. Sometimes they are about the trail itself and the joys and tribulations she encounters. Sometimes they are her private musings. Sometimes they are about the gites (accommodations) or the landscape or the people she meets along the way. The letters are delightfully personal, yet easily read and appreciated. The photographs are perfectly synched to each post.

Part of Anderson's journey was to examine her beliefs about God as she walked. Although raised as a Catholic, she is not sure what or how much she believes and wanted to think about that. Once home, Anderson asked those who had been reading her letters to share their feelings about God, and if they believed in God whether it would make a difference in their waking everyday lives. She includes excerpts from their responses.

I love Letters From the Way. Currently it is on the table in front of my couch and I peruse it often and share it with any and all visitors to my home. If you love France, walking, travel, spirituality, beautiful photography, and quests, this is a book for you!

Read an excerpt from this book.

Barbara V. Anderson is an artist, writer, and walker. Her journeys are long walks that slow a busy life and provide space for explorations beyond the minutia of every-day existence. Sharing what she learns is as much a part of her as is the walking itself. Read more on the publisher's website.

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