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  • Funny, and sometimes sad; informative, touching

    This is a personal story of one young Australian man’s pilgrimage from the French border, across the Pyrenees, to Santiago de Compostela, in north-west Spain. It is many other things as well. In this, his first book, experienced in 2008 and written across the two following years, in his late twenties, Tom Trumble also explores – literally, and metaphorically, en route the stories of fellow pilgrims, Tom’s own back-story that led to his decision to go on the pilgrimage, the history of the pilgrimage, the life and legends of Saint James the Apostle who is the origin of the pilgrimage, as well as the history and prehistory of the region. It is a multifaceted achievement! All of this is told with a light, but thoughtful treatment, culminating, beyond the humorous episodes and colourful characters – and occasional discrete omissions in a brave confrontation with himself, at a turning point in his life. The back-cover blurb refers to “his own very restless demons”. He finds, as perhaps most would-be pilgrims do, that he has set out on a journey only to realise that the challenges he faces on the journey, in pursuit of some possibly uncertain goal, are those he has carried with him from his ordinary, pre-pilgrimage life. “The thing inside of me was my own doing. … This is the baggage I took to Compostela” (October 30, p 288: each “chapter” has a calendar-day as its title). There is a lot to tell, and Tom Trumble, in my opinion, does an excellent job telling it. In some ways Unholy Pilgrims is a multi-stranded mystery. Will Tom, and his good friend Dave, reach Santiago? If they arrive, what will be their physical, emotional and mental condition? Will the mixed-bag of fellow pilgrims that they repeatedly rub up against also achieve their goals in Santiago? What is Tom’s back-story? How does it connect with his pilgrimage? How will the mysteries and conflicts of his past be resolved? Trumble does, in a way, sort out his life, despite the unlikely chances of this having happened just because he walked 800 kilometres across Spain. But HOW this happens, and to what END, and what else happens along the way, I will leave it to you to find out when you read a book which I heartily commend to you.

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