About this book: (from the publisher) In the summer of 2000, David Hlavsa and his wife Lisa Holtby embarked on a pilgrimage. After trying for three years to conceive a child and suffering through the monthly cycle of hope and disappointment, they decided to walk the Camino de Santiago, a joint enterprise—and an act of faith—they hoped would strengthen their marriage and prepare them for parenthood.
Though walking more than 400 miles across the north of Spain turned out to be more difficult than they had anticipated, after a series of misadventures, including a brief stay in a Spanish hospital, they arrived in Santiago. Shortly after their return to Seattle, Lisa became pregnant, and the hardships of the Camino were no comparison to what followed: the stillbirth of their first son and Lisa’s harrowing second pregnancy.
Walking Distance is a moving and disarmingly funny book, a good story with a happy ending—the safe arrival of David and Lisa’s second son, Benjamin. David and Lisa get more than they bargained for, but they also get exactly what they wanted: a child, a solid marriage, and a richer life.
About the author: David Hlavsa heads the Theatre Arts Department of Saint Martin’s University, where he has been teaching, acting, directing, and playwriting since 1989. Find him online at DavidHlavsa.com.
Genre: Non-fiction/Memoir/Family & Relationships/Philosophy
If this book were a movie, I would rate it: PG-13
Reminds me of: Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Will especially appeal to: Anyone who has walked the hard road of infertility or suffered a stillbirth; anyone who has walked the Camino de Santiago (or wants to)
[Tweet “Masterfully written, surprisingly funny, deeply human. Walking Distance @DavidHlavsa”]
My take: Several reasons prompted me to say yes to reading this book: one, the author and his wife struggled through infertility for many years; we have that in common. Two, they live in my part of the world. Three, they walked the Camino de Santiago; while we do not yet have that in common, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that someday we might, and that potential intrigues me.
David Hlavsa’s story is several things. It’s a travelogue of sorts, with twists. It’s an exploration of faith. He refers to travel as an expression of faith, and though he doesn’t say this outright, as a seeking of faith, which is what I found this memoir to be. Agnostic by his own admission, Hlavsa’s walking The Walk struck me as his way of exploring, examining, and experiencing Roman Catholic Christianity. His story is also, above all, a love letter to his wife. This is perhaps what I enjoyed most about it, for though he speaks plainly about quirks and idiosyncrasies on both sides, his abiding love for his wife shines beautifully.
Hlavsa has an artful way of expression that I found particularly appealing. This line, for instance: “The entire length of the Camino is impossibly layered with history, myth, legend, rumor, literary reference, local tradition, and religious anecdote. Story upon story in an absurd, indigestible Dagwood sandwich of narrative.” (p. 27)
Or this description of a Seattle winter “in which every day looks like the inside of a burned-out light bulb and feels like the underside of a slug.” (p. 78) Um, yeah. Pretty much nailed it.
I was not expecting the humor of this book, and I mean LOL funny. I don’t normally purpose to read books that are meant to be humorous, so when one is, it tends to catch me off-guard. In this case, in the most delightful way. Particularly wonderful is his description of how he made his “baby Spanish” work for him.
Though I don’t agree with all of his philosophical conclusions, I found his story to be touching and deeply human. When I finished, I felt I’d been given a glimpse into a thoughtful, articulate, intelligent soul, and this enriched me. It also gave me my first flickering interest in walking the Camino de Santiago myself…someday.
Thanks to the author for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
After words: Is walking the Camino de Santiago on your bucket list? If not, what is?