Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite
The Chocolate Pilgrim: A Journey to Self-Discovery and Transformation on the Camino de Santiago by Marie Maccagno is a beautifully written, emotionally intense, and intimately personal account of a month-long trek across Spain by Maccagno, her husband, and their adult son in the spring of 2009. The title refers to her use of dark chocolate as a trail snack, and their following a popular Catholic route, although this wasn’t undertaken as a religious pilgrimage. After discussing the “bucket list” origins of the trek and the planning and training that went into preparing for it, each chapter covers the family’s day by day experiences on their Camino journey. Maccagno describes in flowing, descriptive narrative the sights, sounds, people, lodgings and food they encountered along the way, including their later decision to take part of the journey by bus to enjoy the experience better. Even so, they walked over 650 km (over 400 miles) and finished at Finisterre on the coast of Spain. A link provides the reader with several photographs.
Although the path of The Chocolate Pilgrim is overlaid on the Camino route map and much of the narrative addresses the trek, that is secondary to the theme of Maccagno’s journey of emotional self-discovery and personal transformation. Through flashbacks to her childhood and the earlier years of her marriage and motherhood, she bares her heart and soul about her struggles with self-identity, self-worth, and family relationships. For me, these frank reflections were often very painful to read, especially those related to her violent childhood, but these are part of who she is and what she has had to overcome. Her decision to walk the Camino proves to be life-changing. Well worth reading.