Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Catholic Book Club: Humbled by the Journey

Morning everyone! It's a cccoooollllldddd start to the day here in Western New York. We're all wearing fleece jackets and slippers in our house pretty much full time right now.  But we're persevering! And Anne battled a "monster" for me in the dining room before I left for work, apparently monsters thrive in cold weather. ;-)

But today is book review day, and the climate discussed in the book is considerably warmer than where I am right now, so let's focus on that. :) I was asked to review the memoir of a man who walked the historic Camino de Santiago entitled Humbled by the Journey: Life Lessons For My Family...and Yours, by Miguel Benito Fernandez. Fascinating topic, yes? I have never read a book about the Camino and have always wanted to, and thus I was quick to agree, and received the beautifully illustrated volume you see at left.

The story behind this book is quite compelling, and I'll excerpt the description from the sales page:

In Humbled By the Journey: Life Lessons For My Family...and Yours, from which the proceeds will go to the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation, Miguel "Mike" Benito Fernandez takes readers on parallel journeys: A 508-mile pilgrimage across El Camino de Santiago from France through Spain - and from a dirt road Cuban town to the pinnacles of U.S. business success. The book shines a light on the lessons Mike has learned over a lifetime of working tirelessly, overcoming obstacles and "showing up." The most important lesson: "You have to take care of those who come after you."

In 2013, Mike hiked along El Camino - an ancient, spiritual trail that attracts pilgrims from around the world - with a pledge for each mile that led to more than $5 million for a children's hospital. The experience was challenging and rigorous and provided Mike with a unique opportunity to embrace his life in a deep, meaningful way. In fact he has done this trip three times. Humbled By the Journey is part self-portrait, part adventure story, and shuttles readers back and forth between Mike's path on El Camino and his journey through life. El Camino becomes a metaphorical backdrop as Mike narrates the details of his 62 years of living.

This is a large and gorgeous book, a true work of art. It is what I would term a "coffee table book," because it would be appropriate to leave out for interested guests to flip through, the illustrations in it are so eye-catching. This is not a book with a leaf of photographs in the center, which we all have seen before in non-fiction titles. This book has photographs on every single page, and the text is inserted around them. It is visually striking, and the story that unfolds will grab a reader right away.

We have parallel stories here, and each chapter contains parts of each. We begin with details of the author's personal life, from his years growing up in revolution-era Cuba and subsequent family expulsion to New York City, to his adulthood as a successful entrepreneur. The end of each chapter contains journal entries chronicling his walk along the Camino. Although not a Catholic, the author was strongly influenced by his time at a Catholic school and a Jesuit priest he encountered there. As he grew into adulthood, Mr. Fernandez made his way with ingenuity and determination, wanting to make a strong career for himself after seeing how his father's business suffered under the oppressive Cuban regime. His ultimate success put him in the position to generate sponsorship for a children's hospital, a cause very close to his heart, via his walk on the Camino de Santiago. I loved how he noted that he carried small photos of some of the chronically ill children at the hospital, and each day he would select one photo and offer up his walk for that child.

This is certainly an inspiring book, both emotionally and spiritually, and the photos and details of the locations the author visited along the Camino moved me greatly. Mr. Fernandez also includes a lot of discussion of his business strategies and wisdom, and efforts in philanthropy.

This book would be a beautiful gift for anyone who is interested in business and entrepreneurship, or anyone who enjoys a good memoir. Despite it's large size, I read it very quickly, the story really captures your imagination. This was a different style from other memoirs that I've read, and I'm so pleased that I added this to my collection. :) If you're interested in purchasing a copy of this book (and supporting a very good cause!), they are available at Books and Books for $29.95.

Check back tomorrow for a saint post I've been looking forward to writing! Until then!

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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