Reviews for Walking With Sam

by Andrew McCarthy

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A father and son take to the road. Actor and travel writer McCarthy recounts an arduous, emotional five-week, 500-mile trek on the Camino de Santiago with his 19-year-old son, Sam, a walk that McCarthy had completed 25 years before, when he was in his early 30s and looking for insight. “Single and childless,” he recalls, “I was several years removed from a drinking habit that had derailed my life. I had put down cigarettes just eight months earlier. My movie career, which had once showed such promise, was essentially over. And I was terrified to be making this walk alone.” The second time around, instead of terror, he felt anxious hope that walking together would foster an “emotional transition” in his relationship with his son, which, he admits, had been rocky. For his part, Sam agreed to go on the walk in the aftermath of a romantic breakup. Irritable and self-absorbed, he was far less interested in talking to his father—his responses were often curt, punctuated by “whatever”—and much more focused on scrolling his phone, calling friends, and checking social media. For the few hundred miles, when Sam did talk, it was mostly about his ex, and sometimes about his parents’ divorce, which sent him back and forth between households. For his part, the author thought about his insecurities as a parent, his relationship with his angry, volatile father, and his capacity for happiness and love. The walk, McCarthy reflects, “acts as a receptacle for our fears, doubts, and resentments, while summoning our more noble traits.” As a travelogue, the narrative is no advertisement for the pilgrimage. The trail is blisteringly hot and dusty, and in villages along the way, the two encountered surly waiters, bad food, and inadequate places to stay. The walk, though, was never about the destination but rather about a father and son readying themselves for a new stage in their lives. A candid record of a difficult journey. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.