I was lucky enough to win a signed copy of this book in a Twitter competition, and it’s one that I’ve been intrigued by since it arrived.
I was initially concerned that Pilgrim would be a little too heavy on the religious side for me, but at it’s heart, the novel is about faith and whilst that word is most often associated with religion, really it is about placing your trust in something bigger than just you, something that this novel explores.
Set predominantly in the early eighties, Charlie Carthy, reeling after the tragic death of his wife, succumbs to a downward spiral which threatens his relationship with their daughter, Jen. In an attempt to bring them closer together, he reluctantly goes on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, a small village where a group of children see a vision of the Virgin Mary. Loosely based on real events in Medjugorje (which remains a site for unofficial Catholic pilgrimages today), I really enjoyed the scenes in the village and the contrast was stark in comparison to life in Dublin. It is a collision of two very different worlds, and yet through the friendship of Jen and Iva, the two connect and what is fundamentally important to us all, shines through.
Grief and loss are major themes throughout; they are explored with sensitivity in their many guises and with great compassion. Each character has suffered a loss in some way, but I really felt for Suzanne the most. Her efforts to reconcile father and daughter for the sake of her dead sister really touched me. For me, she is the unsung hero of the book and the orchestrator of an ending which really moved me.
Pilgrim is a beautifully subtle read. It does not shout and scream, but instead lulls and encourages. It’s sincerity is its greatest strength and I found it to be a really thought-provoking, emotive read.
After a major row with his wife, Sarah, Charlie Carthy storms out of the family home. Just hours later he finds out that Sarah has become the victim of a hit-and-run driver and is in critical condition in hospital.
Sarah’s death and Charlie’s self-absorbing grief throws their daughter Jen’s life into turmoil. Will an unwanted pilgrimage to Medjugorje heal Jen and Charlie’s relationship, or should Jen prepare to lose her remaining parent?