The Singular Pilgrim
The Singular Pilgrim is a riveting account of one woman's personal quest to find the root of belief among modern religious pilgrims. The intrepid Rosemary Mahoney undertakes six extraordinary journeys: visiting an Anglican shrine to Saint Mary in Walsingham, England; walking the five-hundred-mile Camino de Santiago in northern Spain; braving the icy bathwater at Lourdes; rowing alone across the Sea of Galilee to spend a night camped below the Golan Heights; viewing Varanasi, India’s holiest city, from a rubber raft on the Ganges; soldiering barefoot through the three-day penitential Catholic pilgrimage on Ireland’s Station Island. A fiercely observant traveler and an insightful writer, Mahoney offers a witty and provocative chronicle of her adventures.

The Singular Pilgrim Details

TitleThe Singular Pilgrim
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 11th, 2004
PublisherMariner Books
ISBN-139780618446650
Rating
GenreTravel, Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Religion, Spirituality, Cultural, India

The Singular Pilgrim Review

  • Bob
    January 1, 1970
    Another great read from Rosemary Mahoney. This woman has my number. As always, the book is as much about her own state of mind as it is about the places she visits. Some readers dislike that. I'm certainly not one of them. As she was revisiting her Catholic upbringing at pilgrimage sites in France, Spain, Israel, and western Ireland, her self-examinations in those places spurred me to revisit my own very similar experiences. Not a comfortable trip down memory lane, but a valuable one. The essay Another great read from Rosemary Mahoney. This woman has my number. As always, the book is as much about her own state of mind as it is about the places she visits. Some readers dislike that. I'm certainly not one of them. As she was revisiting her Catholic upbringing at pilgrimage sites in France, Spain, Israel, and western Ireland, her self-examinations in those places spurred me to revisit my own very similar experiences. Not a comfortable trip down memory lane, but a valuable one. The essay detailing her sojourn in Varanasi (aka Benares) in India was also completely engrossing--mostly for her portrayals of those she encountered there. She's always so perceptive in her observations about people, cultures, institutions, you name it--it's just not fair! I thought the weakest essay was the first, which told of her trip to Walsingham in England, an Anglican pilgrimage site. Not that it wasn't interesting, but it failed to catch fire in my imagination the way subsequent chapters did. It lacked passion. In summary, of the three Mahoney books I've read so far, this one is probably my favorite, perhaps because it spoke to me most directly.
    more
  • Slc
    January 1, 1970
    I cheated and just read the section about the Camino de Santiago
  • Shirly
    January 1, 1970
    Fierce, smart, funny, poignant, thoroughly researched (though i do question her statement that in Varanasi the people pray to Shiva & Bramha (not Vishnu? -- I'm not an authority, just someone who has overheard different gossip), artfully written. I am glad to read this book, and even more happy that I don't have to walk with Rosemary. Halfway through the book, she's halfway through the Camino de Santiago and she comes to the realization that I, and countless of millions have before us: The Fierce, smart, funny, poignant, thoroughly researched (though i do question her statement that in Varanasi the people pray to Shiva & Bramha (not Vishnu? -- I'm not an authority, just someone who has overheard different gossip), artfully written. I am glad to read this book, and even more happy that I don't have to walk with Rosemary. Halfway through the book, she's halfway through the Camino de Santiago and she comes to the realization that I, and countless of millions have before us: The more we learned about our physical existence, about the hard facts of our world, the more we were able to accomplish, but the less room there seemed to be for us here. We were moving so quickly now that moving slowly had become a struggle. As I watched the pilgrims below in the square, it struck me that we had come here in an effort to slow down I'm left wondering, why do so many of us have to come to so much pain to learn this, as though we were the first person to ever dream up this ancient understanding.Also, I wonder why Rosemary deserts this line of inquiry in the next paragraph as her immobilizing tendonitis, vanishes with her lack of interest in exploring what might be a slow point for book sales in the "travel section" and not enough of a focus in the "spiritual section" of a virtual bookstore.I've spend the past week with Rosemary at Varanasi and now the "Holy Land." The impulse to learn to pray seems to have left her feeling isolated and rudderless in the midst of these predominantly non-catholic communities. I think, were I so lucky as to be able to travel and spend time in each of these holy locals, the question I would ask of the local sacred & profane is "teach me to pray." She's obviously desperate to learn.Her personal involvement seems to have dried up on the Camino de Santiago, as has her interest in any kind of pilgrimage beyond astute, journalistic, impersonal observations. While I respect her opinion that it would be unwise to bathe and worship in the polluted Ganges, she has distanced herself further than Western fear of bacteria. She is clearly working through her personal, powerful, Catholic rebellion, and participating in any Hindu or Muslim pilgrimage (the idea of a Buddhist or Jewish pilgrimage is not entertained), is clearly outside of the scope of her interest. So why spend a month on the Ganges, recounting the inappropriately high millimeter of fecal content in the river?Or weeks whiling away our time in the "holy land," describing the now 15-yr-old politics, the point of which, in a place of such ancient histories, escapes me. She again seems to see through the eyes of an educated tourist, without a direction or inquiry of pilgrimage. In her final chapter "Saint Patrick's Purgatory," she is able to move beyond her intelligent, calculating, academic prose to a conclusion that allows for the possibility of the unsubstantiatable elements that inspired her, and millions, toward pilgrimage of all kinds.
    more
  • Tim
    January 1, 1970
    Mahoney, raised Irish Catholic, writes as a spiritual pilgrim looking for some hold on the faith. Her accounts of visiting pilgrimage sites are excellent travel accounts (good description of settings, excellent interactions with people, and some generally thoughtful spiritual wonderings). The accounts I found most compelling were her visit to Lourdes, her walking of the Camino in Spain, and her visit to Varanasi (Benares) in India. At Lourdes she showed herself a fine participant observer with r Mahoney, raised Irish Catholic, writes as a spiritual pilgrim looking for some hold on the faith. Her accounts of visiting pilgrimage sites are excellent travel accounts (good description of settings, excellent interactions with people, and some generally thoughtful spiritual wonderings). The accounts I found most compelling were her visit to Lourdes, her walking of the Camino in Spain, and her visit to Varanasi (Benares) in India. At Lourdes she showed herself a fine participant observer with real care for the individual people around her. I am fascinated by the Camino and her account of the scenary, people, and foot pain only increased the fascination. Varanasi is the only non-Christian site she visited and she explores its foreignness from the outside (the other accounts she enters into the pilgrimages directly) and with the assistance of her teenage guide Jaga, who she describes with deep affection. These are beautiful and moving chapters. Her account of Walsingham allows her to poke at the Anglican appropriation of a Catholic pilgrimage for the Virgin. The chapter on the Holy Land is probably my least favorite (only four stars instead of five) as she spends more time reflecting on Biblical criticism and the then current political tensions than on Jesus or on human characters she meets, though I appreciated her crossing the Sea of Galilee in a rubber raft (which she had also used to cross the Ganges) and her descriptions of Nazareth. The final chapter on Saint Patrick's Purgatory, a return to Ireland for her, on an intense weekend retreat that exhausted her and also left her with hope.
    more
  • Maria
    January 1, 1970
    I didn't think much of this book mostly b/c I didn't think much of the author's point of departure. What she pulls off is certainly striking and her observations/writing are quite interesting. However, I felt a bit like what were wonderful seeds were thrown on dry ground as the author did not seem to come to her pilgrimages with turned soil, something she admits from the start. As such, she seems to spend a good deal of time talking about pollution in the Danube or less-than-noble Camino pilgrim I didn't think much of this book mostly b/c I didn't think much of the author's point of departure. What she pulls off is certainly striking and her observations/writing are quite interesting. However, I felt a bit like what were wonderful seeds were thrown on dry ground as the author did not seem to come to her pilgrimages with turned soil, something she admits from the start. As such, she seems to spend a good deal of time talking about pollution in the Danube or less-than-noble Camino pilgrims, for example, than exploring more meaningful areas. One could argue that made her more open and impartial to experiences like those of Hinduism, for example. I am not that one, however, and feel a religious experience of any sort is made more deep/strong having tilled the soul's spiritual soil a bit. Who's to say? Nonetheless, it was an interesting read regardless of what, I feel, is the book's pallid conclusion: "There might just be something to all this."
    more
  • David
    January 1, 1970
    This good read covers 6 pilgrimages. I read three of the stories. I read of her pilgrimage to Walsingham, England, on the El Camino De Santiago, and Saint Patrick's Purgatory.I read this book as a practicing Christian who loves to pilgrimage. I hiked the Camino with my wife and youngest daughter. In reading her recap of her walking the Camino, I was carried back to my walk. I remembered many of my big and little adventures. I could feel hers. There is a sadness hanging over the three chapters I This good read covers 6 pilgrimages. I read three of the stories. I read of her pilgrimage to Walsingham, England, on the El Camino De Santiago, and Saint Patrick's Purgatory.I read this book as a practicing Christian who loves to pilgrimage. I hiked the Camino with my wife and youngest daughter. In reading her recap of her walking the Camino, I was carried back to my walk. I remembered many of my big and little adventures. I could feel hers. There is a sadness hanging over the three chapters I read. The author is desperately looking something that she can not find but already exists within her. I was left with a deep sadness after laying the book down.
    more
  • Ilan
    January 1, 1970
    I bought this book only planning to read the chapter on Varanasi, India. The chapter was wonderful. Her observations are compassionate and detailed. I liked it so much, I decided to read the rest of the book, but the rest I read was not so much of a story as a list of historical facts about churches. So I quit. I read the part I meant to read.
    more
  • Dan Jackson
    January 1, 1970
    The author goes on half a dozen religious pilgrimages, from Lourdes, France to Varanasi, India as a secular observer. I love great travel writing and Mahoney is among the best at capturing the small details and encounters that make the journey come alive.
    more
  • Beth G.
    January 1, 1970
    Award-winning author and lapsed Irish Catholic Mahoney takes the reader to six sites of pilgrimage in different parts of the world in this combination memoir and travelogue. First, she takes two pilgrimages (one Catholic, one Anglican) to Walsingham, England, then visits Lourdes on the way to walking El Camino de Santiago from France into Spain. Following a lengthy sojourn in Varanasi, India, she spends Christmas in Bethlehem and Nazareth after a brief visit to Jerusalem. Finally, she travels to Award-winning author and lapsed Irish Catholic Mahoney takes the reader to six sites of pilgrimage in different parts of the world in this combination memoir and travelogue. First, she takes two pilgrimages (one Catholic, one Anglican) to Walsingham, England, then visits Lourdes on the way to walking El Camino de Santiago from France into Spain. Following a lengthy sojourn in Varanasi, India, she spends Christmas in Bethlehem and Nazareth after a brief visit to Jerusalem. Finally, she travels to Ireland for three days on Lough Derg, performing a strictly scripted penitential rite in St. Patrick's Purgatory. While Mahoney's detailed descriptions of the people she meets and the landscapes she sees bring the reader along on her travels, it is her explorations in search of her own belief that many readers will find familiar. The difficult balancing act between faith and intellect is a recurring theme as she observes the faithful in different communities and cultures. Here and there, the narrative begins to drag, but it quickly picks up again. While she finds no easy answers in her observations of the devout or in her performance of devotions, her account of the journey is fascinating.
    more
  • Cheryl
    January 1, 1970
    This is my first time reading this author, and I think her descriptive talents are unique and powerful. It may be trite but this is one of the rare books where I felt there with her, her words alive and I was experiencing the landscapes and people with her. My favorite pilgrimages were the trek to Santiago del Compostela and her time in India at Varanasi. I am, of course, an avid walker, so the Santiago del Compestela was a beautiful combination of a physical trek in nature as well as exploring This is my first time reading this author, and I think her descriptive talents are unique and powerful. It may be trite but this is one of the rare books where I felt there with her, her words alive and I was experiencing the landscapes and people with her. My favorite pilgrimages were the trek to Santiago del Compostela and her time in India at Varanasi. I am, of course, an avid walker, so the Santiago del Compestela was a beautiful combination of a physical trek in nature as well as exploring the religious artifacts of the pilgrimage. In Varanasi she was there to witness human cremation, which at first sounded extremely uninteresting and morbid, but her time in the city was so exquisitely detailed it made up for it. The poverty and human despair of India was never as real and present for me, and I am humbled and changed by it. If I had any complaint about this author, it's that she never seemed changed or transformed by what she saw or wrote about. But I grateful that she went, saw, and shared.
    more
  • Heather Hornbacher
    January 1, 1970
    Rosemary Mahoney is a master in the art of observation and telling a story. This book is less of a conclusive story and more of a trip not only on pilgrimages but also into her own struggles with God. It is not conclusive but life often is not but a work of art in progress. If nothing else it is a great read just to experience the places she has been in a "imagination movie" of Mahoney's skillful making.
    more
  • Cherie
    January 1, 1970
    A- Really terrific explorations of various sacred and religions places; the part in England and Ireland was not as interesting, but what I really loved were her journeys in India (oh, especially India!!!) and the Camino del Santiago (which I've always wanted to do). She basically acts as a pilgrim to explore why people do it and to learn more about herself and human nature. Fascinating and highly recommended to all spiritual travelers.
    more
  • Luann Yetter
    January 1, 1970
    Mahnoney was a featured speaker in UMF's Writer's Series this past spring. The students enjoyed her work and her reading, and so did I. She writes with the detachment of a journalist, which is a good thing. I was afraid the book would dwell too much on Mahoney's own spiritual awakening, but that wasn't the direction she took at all. Her story focuses on the places she visited and people she met and falls more in the travel-writing genre than the memoir genre.
    more
  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoyed the trails Mahoney traveled. She didn’t undertake the journeys with the sense of faith that a myriad of men and women have done throughout the centuries, but she invites the reader to share the road and to get a sense of the area and the people therein.
    more
  • Hope
    January 1, 1970
    As an Armchair Pilgrim (Pilgrim Wannabe?), I especially enjoyed the down-to-earth nitty-gritty details and insights of the author. Very accessible. Gives a real sense of being there, warts and all, and of the questions raised and wrestled with.
  • Teri
    January 1, 1970
    A wonderful, frank and honest book. A travelogue, spiritual journey and history lesson all rolled into one. Mahoney made me want to undertake my own pilgrimage on the Camino -- after reading her story it doesn't seem so out of reach.
  • Jess
    January 1, 1970
    Interesting, but a little slow for my tastes. Focused heavily on the history of each place, rather than the writer's experience on each pilgrimage, which was more what I was seeking. I didn't have a chance to finish it before it needed to be returned to the library.
    more
  • Josie
    January 1, 1970
    I love all the books she has written, but this one is my favorite so far.
  • Amplotkin
    January 1, 1970
    I like this author. I am about halfway through now . . . Looking forward to finding and reading the book about Lillian Hellman.
  • Katie
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this book. In fact, I'm re-reading it. Am inspired to identify my own pilgrimage beckoning!
  • Jenny
    January 1, 1970
    Another great travelogue by Rosemary Mahoney. The highlight is the chapter where she walks the Camino de Santiago.
  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    I love her incisive observant writing; she takes us with her on her personal pilgrimages around the world
  • Maureen Flatley
    January 1, 1970
    A travelogue of pilgrimage sites..... a fascinating look at faith and the realization that during the internet era religious pilgrimages are on the rise.
  • Karla
    January 1, 1970
    I read parts of this before heading out on a pilgrimage myself. I like Mahoney's style, which is sparse but direct and true. She mixes interesting observations with solid research.
  • Marja Verschoor-Meijers
    January 1, 1970
    Great travelbook!!! The perfect read... makes you want to go to Spain on the next plane!
  • Lu
    January 1, 1970
    Series of pilmgramages
  • CJ
    January 1, 1970
    Gave me a lot of respect for modern-day religious pilgrims. To endure what Mahoney endured for faith is beyond my comprehension.
  • Patricia
    January 1, 1970
    This book tops my list of favorite reads so far this year. I'm delighted to have discovered Mahoney, for she is a marvelous writer. I chose the book because of the subject matter--her visits to 5 pilgrimages--and was pleased to discover this talented writer. Mahoney brings her observational skills to the page in a way that enriches and propels the narrative.Describing St. Patrick's Purgatory, a pilgrimage in Ireland she writes: "The island was lonely, wind-blown, rainy, and ridden with midges th This book tops my list of favorite reads so far this year. I'm delighted to have discovered Mahoney, for she is a marvelous writer. I chose the book because of the subject matter--her visits to 5 pilgrimages--and was pleased to discover this talented writer. Mahoney brings her observational skills to the page in a way that enriches and propels the narrative.Describing St. Patrick's Purgatory, a pilgrimage in Ireland she writes: "The island was lonely, wind-blown, rainy, and ridden with midges that flew up your nose and gnawed at your ankles. The lake was black and cold. You had to walk about in circles all night long and endlessly kneeling on weird piles of ancient stones as you mulled over your own frailty and failures."About a man she encountered on her way to Walsingham: "He was tiny and rheumy-eyed and stinking of whiskey. Each of his beige eyebrows was the size of a healthy mustache. On this warm day he was dressed in an oilskin slicker and a peaked cap."The thing I most appreciated was how honest she was about her skepticism: "About God I was forever uncertain, suspended, and teetering."My favorite of the pilgrimages was the Camino del Santiogo because I've been fascinated with it for several years and even contemplated making the trek. The most colorful was that Varnasi. The most stark was her time in Jerusalem. She approached each pilgrimage with humility, always clear that what she was offering was her perspective, and for me that viewpoint was vivid and telling.
    more
  • Beth
    January 1, 1970
    I started this book several times and as I enjoyed her first book I was hopeful about this one alas I can no longer identify with her and found her voice annoying. This I will not be going forward with this.
  • Tom
    January 1, 1970
    Fran
Write a review