Book Review: A Walk to the End of the Earth

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A Walk to the End of the Earth

by Jeffrey Kendall
Unmuzzled Ox Publishing, 2023
303 pages
on Goodreads

Reviewed by Jerald Stroebele | Anchorage, AK

A Walk to the End of the Earth, book cover, with background.

Kendall walked 1,750 kilometers along Le Chemin du Puy and the Camino Francés from Le Puy-en-Velay, France, to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and then on to Muxía and Finisterre.

He carried his backpack and walked every step. He got blisters. The author is very observant of the natural, man-made, and human environment. The stories about meeting other pilgrims in the gîtes, albergues, cafés, and along the way are detailed, engrossing, and beautiful. With the level of detail, this could almost be a Camino guidebook. It is certainly a well-written Camino story. But this is a Camino memoir like no other I’ve read.

The author recounts a childhood of enduring verbal and emotional abuse by his parents. As a teenager he was sexually abused by a teacher. He converted to Catholicism and was later ordained a priest. His first pastor and then succeeding clergy supervisors verbally abused and grossly mistreated him. His bishop permitted their ill treatment of a priest. The abuses of power and bullying he continually suffered in his diocese throughout his priesthood pushed him into nightmares, depression, and thoughts of suicide.

Walking the Camino was his quest to get answers from God about whether he should continue to be a priest. By the time he reached Finisterre, he felt free to make his own decision “after seventeen miserable years as a priest.” This very personal story is told in first person, present. This priest talks to God constantly and sees God’s hand in every occurrence, good (Providential) or bad. When asked by fellow pilgrims why he walks, he simply says he and God have a lot to talk about.

A lot of flashback dialogue describes his many attempts to help a heroin addicted prostitute and their subsequent love and sexual relationship. This and other descriptions of sex are graphic. Some readers drawn by the book’s title may not expect that in a story about the Camino. Some readers may be disturbed by the revelation of the unchristian treatment of a priest by his clergy superiors and his perceived harsh treatment by God.

This book is an eye-opener to the sad lives of people who have grievously suffered a variety of abuses or the destruction caused by addictions. An alternate title for this book could be: Cries to God from the Tormented Soul of a Catholic Priest Walking the Camino de Santiago.

This review was featured in our Fall 2023 issue of La Concha. The theme was “Seasons of the Way”, and you can find the full issue in our archive here

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