Book Review: Walking West on the Camino

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Walking West on the Camino Series

Walking West on the Camino—Encore Une Fois
by Johnna Studebaker
Two Pelerines Press, 2017-2018
219 pages

Walking West on the Camino—on the Vezelay Route
by Johnna Studebaker
Two Pelerines Press, 2023
125 pages

on Goodreads: Encore Une Fois, Vézelay route

Reviewed by Allison Venuto | Dallas, TX

Walking West on Camino, book covers on dark background.

After an injury alters her first Camino experience, author Johnna Studebaker convinces her somewhat reluctant twin, Marcia, to walk from Le Puy-en-Velay to Santiago in two-week stretches over the course of six years. The result of their experiences is the delightful Walking West on the Camino—Encore Une Fois. Studebaker follows up this book with a second, Walking West on the Camino—on the Vezelay Route, in which the sisters walk together from Vézelay, but when illness waylays Marcia, the author walks the last stretch from Nevers to St. Jean Pied de Port by herself.

Both books follow a typical Camino memoir format, with one chapter of narrative covering a day of walking. The author’s joy and positivity leap off the pages as she experiences Camino highs and lows. The author’s lovely original paintings featured throughout both books give a sense of the special journeys held within the pages.

Studebaker offers the reader supply lists and historical information to help place the Camino within a modern context. She also provides details on culture that bring the walks to life without overwhelming the reader with details. She writes to an audience who loves the Camino as she does, or soon will after reading her stories. 

While, in the first book, the two sisters plan for Santiago to mark the end of their Camino, as with many pilgrims, the spirit of the Camino calls and the two begin planning their next walk. Unfortunately, as they return to pilgrimage in the second book, we learn that illness interrupts Marcia’s plans, and the author continues alone. Walking after the pandemic, Studebaker notes changes on the Camino as a result. This second path focuses more on Mary Magdalene, so the historical and cultural information the author provides may be less known to the average pilgrim. With an openness to see the varied way the Camino provides, Studebaker’s obvious delight in the lessons of the Camino will be a strong reminder for seasoned pilgrims and a beginning lesson to those planning their first walk.

These Camino love letters palpably bring the Camino spirit to life, and I hope the author writes a third installment for added sustenance.

This review was featured in our Winter 2024 issue of La Concha. The theme was “The Artist’s Way”, and you can find the full issue in our archive here.

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