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Writing samples: book review

appeared on the Talk City website, January 2000 (no longer available online)

Book review: Sacred Roads: Adventures from the Pilgrimage Trail, by Nicholas Shrady, Harper San Francisco, 1999. ISBN 0-06-067112-2

A literal spiritual journey common to nearly all major religious traditions, pilgrimage invites a different experience than a standard tourist visit to a sacred site. As author Nicholas Shrady describes it, “the pilgrim’s progress is both an interior journey, a spiritual exercise, and a physical journey toward an actual site imbued with divine character.”

Shrady, born and raised a Catholic, sets out on a series of pilgrimages to sites from several religious traditions, including Bodh Gaya, the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment; the tomb of the Sufi mystic, Rumi; the Himalayan source of the Ganges, held sacred by Hindus; the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem; and the 500-mile Way of St James in Spain.

“Sacred Roads” is the result of those journeys, offering both an engaging travelogue and an insightful spiritual journal. Shrady has a gift for sharing the details: surviving blizzard conditions in Spain; the amusing-in-retrospect experience of having all his belongings stolen, including the clothes on his back, in northern India; conversations with cabbies in Jerusalem. In a world of “fast food” tourism, “Sacred Roads” offers a nourishing slow-cooked feast for the spirit.
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