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Pilgrim River

Pilgrim River

A Spiritual Memoir

By Kenneth Garcia

240 pp

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About the Book

Pilgrim River candidly narrates one man’s wandering but sincere attempt to come to terms with the overpowering experience of God—a journey from unbelief to nature mysticism in the deserts and mountains of Nevada and Utah, to sojourns through the country of marriage and the republic of letters, and finally to the Catholic Church. The road followed is crooked, plagued by a lack of spiritual guides and mentors, by isolation, depression, by a failed first marriage; but present throughout is a groping toward spiritual fulfillment alternately tortured, hopeful, and bathed in luminescence. Many spiritual seekers—including those who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious”—will benefit from the telling of this unorthodox journey to Christianity.


“Written with the naturalistic zeal of Annie Dillard and the confessional spirit of St. Augustine, Pilgrim River is the story of an ordinary life’s extraordinary journey. It is a story of pursuing—and being pursued by—God. I finished the last page with a lump in my throat that won’t quickly go away.”


author of Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure

“Ken Garcia’s Pilgrim River flows from the wild headwaters of youth through the fretful meanderings of middle life into the sometimes placid, sometimes turbid, waters of later years. At its heart is the story of an often-troubled soul searching for its footing, then its calling, in the wilderness of an immanent and increasingly resplendent God. Filled with profligate yearnings that in time mature into a balanced Catholic faith, it echoes Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain and Augustine’s Confessions. Yet, in its evocations of the natural world and its honest depiction of a tortured journey toward hope and love, it stands alone.”


author of Pure Act: the Uncommon Life of Robert Lax

“At once luminous, tragic, and hopeful, this memoir is balanced on the edge of belief and doubt, of knowing and unknowing. Pilgrim River invites the reader into the heart and life of a man haunted by the call of Spirit. This is a book to be read and reread, a companion for those who seek—for the God-haunted, the wanderer, the misfit. A sense of divine presence in all things—especially in the margins—hums within the pages of this memoir.”


author of The Fifth Season and Through the Veil

“Ken Garcia’s Pilgrim River is an extraordinarily fascinating memoir, brutally honest, often painfully so. Unlike many spiritual autobiographies, Garcia resists the temptation to paint a portrait of himself as hero, or as reformed reprobate, and avoids the lure of creating a false happy ending. The prose is full of grace and beauty, pain and confusion, and we realize that Garcia, though he speaks for himself, actually describes us all. Pilgrim River is a postmodern Everyman tale.”


author of The Incarnation of the Poetic Word

About the Author

Kenneth Garcia is Associate Director of the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts at the University of Notre Dame. His literary work has appeared in journals such as The Gettysburg ReviewSouthwest ReviewSaint Katherine ReviewNotre Dame Magazine, and Hunger Mountain. His essays have been selected for note in Best American Essays (2015 and 2016), and finalists for the Hunger Mountain Creative Nonfiction Essay Prize and the Waterston Desert Writing Prize.

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