THE SINGULAR PILGRIM: Travels on Sacred Ground

Rosemary Mahoney, Author . Houghton Mifflin $25 (416p) ISBN 978-0-618-02262-5

Most pilgrims are on a very personal quest in which they hope to encounter God, whether it be at a roadside shrine or under the soaring arches of a medieval cathedral. In this reflection on her experiences in Christian and Hindu holy places, the critically acclaimed author of previous books on Lillian Hellman and Ireland is deeply skeptical, occasionally biting and sporadically hopeful about the possibility that a transcendent God might exist. As she encounters anti-Catholic protesters in Walsingham, England, or shares trail chat and blisters with an impressive multinational array of eccentric comrades on the way to Santiago de Compostela, Mahoney's objective is both to understand the nature of belief and to grapple with the remnants of her own Irish Catholic heritage. The bulk of this compelling and evocative memoir recounts time spent in places redolent with Christian history. Yet it is in the ancient Hindu sacred city of Varanasi, India, that Mahoney seems to drop her guard. In her wise and resigned teenage guide, Jaga, she finds a kindred spirit. "I wanted to hug him for his cleverness. His faith, I knew, was similar in nature to mine—faded, worn, resentful, and stubbornly evasive. And yet it was there." At book's end, Mahoney emerges from another pilgrimage incrementally more peaceful but with her singularity intact. Readers seeking small marvels, instead of life-changing miracles, will find this a provocative and illuminating armchair adventure. (Mar. 27)

Reviewed on: 03/03/2003
Release date: 00/00/0000
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 404 pages - 978-0-618-44665-0
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-1762-0
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