A Painful Pilgrimage

Walking Home Choquette

I cannot believe how disappointed I am by Walking Home:  A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed by Sonia Choquette. I had such high hopes: an intuitive spiritual healer goes on a hike across Spain to work out her emotional baggage and come to terms with several major (and majorly failing) relationships in her life. Oh man, this is my jam! I thought I was going to eat this book up.

But, wow. Choquette is one of the least insightful people I have ever encountered–especially for someone who is so accomplished at and well-known for…being insightful. It never occurred to me that Choquette and her book could be so empty, so irritating, or so lacking in honest observation and understanding.

First off, I found it grating the way Choquette talked to herself throughout her journey. It was difficult to read after a while. Her self-talk is unforgiving, merciless, and even sometimes cruel. When she faces real problems, she minimizes them. “Stop being such a prima donna!” she tells herself. Be a “good soldier” and ignore the fact that, you know, your toes are black and oozing blood. Better yet, think of all the “people who suffered around the world.” Huh? I’m not sure what one has to do with the other, and I especially don’t understand what is so wrong with showing yourself some compassion when you are suffering.

But my main problem with Choquette is her lack of insight into her own relationships–especially her relationships with her husband and with her father. My God, she trashes her husband so much in this book, it’s almost embarrassing to read. Over and over again she digs into him–but not in a way that would show that she has faced her feelings head on, processed the difficult stuff, and really come to some insightful conclusions about him, herself, and their marriage. No, she is passive aggressive and venomous, full of anger and vitriol, ready to cut him apart for (what comes across as) a bunch of piddly “injustices,” the insufferable nothings that ALL married people inflict on each other: he rushes her out the door, he always prepares for the worst, he criticizes her for working too much, he irritates her with his breathing.

Listen, we’ve all been there. I’ve been married 10 years and my husband can 100% get under my skin. But part of marriage is figuring out why you are really upset, learning to process your own feelings before you lash out, giving yourself permission to take a break, deciding what is worth fighting about, and, finally, showing your spouse (and yourself) a bit of grace. I don’t mind Choquette’s emotions; but I found it so irritating that she just put all this unprocessed negativity out there. It’s brutal. And the fact that she feels so justified in ripping him apart publicly baffles me.

But while she’s waging death-by-a-thousand-cuts on her husband, in the next breath, she’s accepting and forgiving–without question–her deeply abusive and callous father. Oh, sure, she toys with the idea that maybe her dad wasn’t amazing all the time–you know, when he, like, hit her, or maybe when he told her that she wasn’t allowed to talk about any of her accomplishments when she was at home so as not to “take the spotlight off of her mom,” or perhaps when he told her to “shut up and disappear.” Maybe he wasn’t perfect, but–and this is her moment of insight on DAY ONE of her journey–ultimately, she decides he was a “good man” because he took care of his kids and never let them starve. Standards!

The fact that Choquette can be so angry and unforgiving with her husband and yet so completely magnanimous with her abusive dad tells me that she hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface of built-up resentment. In my opinion, it sure looks like she just doesn’t want to deal with the REAL pain of her childhood. It’s easier to hate her husband than to accept that the person who was supposed to love her showed her cruelty instead.

Ultimately, I thought this book was just awful. I kept waiting for the turnaround, the insight, the shining moment of inspiration that would indicate to me that Choquette was capable of seeing the role she plays in perpetuating the negative patterns and harmful relationships in her life. But it never came. Instead, in this book, Choquette focused on giving readers a tedious play-by-play of a mostly boring hiking trip without supplying any much-needed depth or wisdom. Such a disappointment.

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