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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
San Francisco Pilgrimage: Memoir of a Lifelong Love Affair with My City by Tania Romanov is a moving tale of one woman’s search to rediscover her identity and purpose during the enforced isolation of Covid-19. The author, a well-known travel writer, was stopped in her tracks when the pandemic struck. Unable to travel and record her thoughts, she was stuck at home in her apartment in San Francisco. While reading Phil Cousineau’s book, The Art of Pilgrimage, during the lockdown, Tania got the idea that if she couldn’t travel because of the pandemic, then perhaps she could take the opportunity to walk around the city she loves, San Francisco. She could do her pilgrimage to the places and people that shaped her life, especially as a young girl fresh from four years in a refugee camp in Trieste, Italy following her family’s escape from communist Yugoslavia, after the Second World War. Having arrived in the US as a four-year-old, Tania had been desperate to throw off the second-class status of lowly immigrants and embrace all that the American culture and way of life had to offer. This seven-day pilgrimage around the streets and sights of her beloved city was intended to revisit the experiences and places that shaped this woman as she fell in love with her city, San Francisco.
San Francisco Pilgrimage is a fascinating wander around the many wonderful sights and landmarks of San Francisco. Even for someone who has never visited the city, it allows readers to experience the wonders and excitement of the place. I did appreciate that author Tania Romanov did not attempt to gloss over the failings of the city and its many social problems yet those did not detract from the intense love she felt for the place. This is more than just a travelogue of San Francisco; it is the opportunity for the author to address some of her decisions of the past. Her willingness, as a young person, to reject the world of her parents, that of exiles and immigrants, and to fully embrace the concept of being American had harmed her relationships with her family, and by revisiting many of the sites of her childhood she was able to reconnect with those feelings and understand them. What I particularly appreciated, especially in this time of isolation and enforced social inactivity, was the willingness of the author to approach and interact with strangers she met along the way, and the synchronicities which ensued from some of these random encounters were stunning at times. What I will take most from this pilgrimage is the understanding that we, as individuals, cannot see all that the universe might be preparing and offering to us, and the most important thing we can do is embrace and accept whatever comes our way with gratitude and positivity. This is an uplifting and memorable read at a time when we need it most and I can highly recommend this book.