Publisher: Mercier Press
In Dublin, fourteen-year-old Jen and her father, Charlie, are struggling to cope with the death of their mother/wife. Charlie, in particular, seems to have given up on life. When Jen's aunt, Suzanne, convinces them to go on a pilgrimage to a strange village in Yugoslavia, there is hope that some solace or healing may be brought to their broken lives. On their arrival, however, they find a village in upheaval. An influx of pilgrims have swarmed into the village, each looking for their own miracle. Then there are the local police, who aim to suppress this so-called `revolution'. Amid all this, Jen makes a friend, Iva - one of the children who claims to have seen the Virgin Mary.
Told with a deep humanity and grace, Pilgrim is a story about a man who feels he has nothing to live for, and a daughter who is determined to prove him wrong. A nuanced and moving exploration of grief and faith. Unique subject matter based around the famed Medjugorje apparitions. The author already has a dedicated readership built up from her two non-fiction books on Medjugorje. This is her first fictional take on the story.
When I first saw this book, I was struck by the wonderful cover art, but something about the premise lingered with me. I've never been drawn to stories with religious overtones, but this story hinted at a more in-depth plot based around grief and family.
As soon as I started reading, I knew I'd found an incredible novel - the writing is beautifully lyrical, the setting and characters speaking to the reader and seeming so authentic.
While wading through this exquisitely crafted narrative, I saw the review by Anne Cater (who I have to thank for inviting me onto the blog tour) where she suggested reading the Author Note at the end of the novel. I knew that Louise had released non-fiction with similar themes, but reading that note explained how she was able to craft such a moving, honest and thought-provoking work of fiction.
As both an author and a reader, I always adore plots that are told from more than one perspective; Louise did this with grace. We see Jen, Charlie and Suzanne all struggle to deal with their grief and it's written so viscerally that I found myself imagining how I'd cope in their position. I could relate to all of them, and found it so interesting how Louise was able to write the story from so many angles.
This novel made me laugh and cry. and as you can probably tell I completely fell in love with the characters. I would challenge anyone to read this book and not be moved. There were elements of travel writing, addiction and spirituality. I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes to lose themselves in a narrative that will both stretch and calm their mind.
Thanks again to Anne Cater and Mercier Press for sending me a copy for review and inviting me onto the blog tour.