Title: Two Steps Forward
Author: Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist
Publisher: Two Roads
Zoe, a sometime artist, is from California. Martin, an engineer, is from Yorkshire. Both have ended up in picturesque Cluny, in central France. Both are struggling to come to terms with their recent past – for Zoe, the death of her husband; for Martin, a messy divorce.
Looking to make a new start, each sets out alone to walk two thousand kilometres from Cluny to Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Spain, in the footsteps of pilgrims who have walked the Camino (the Way) for centuries. The Camino changes you, it’s said. It’s a chance to find a new version of yourself, and a new beginning. But can these two very different people find themselves? Will they find each other?
In this smart, funny and romantic journey, Martin’s and Zoe’s stories are told in alternating chapters by husband-and-wife team Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist. Two Steps Forward is a novel about renewal – physical, psychological and spiritual. It’s about the challenge of walking a long distance and of working out where you are going. And it’s about what you decide to keep, what you choose to leave behind and what you rediscover.
This is definitely a very different book than The Rosie Project (which I loved); though it still focuses on slightly older characters, this time the novel tells the story of two people who meet whilst walking from France to Spain and the ‘rocky road’ (sorry) that is ahead of them. Though it’s entertaining in its own way, it’s not as funny as The Rosie Project and definitely has a more serious tone – I found it more of a thoughtful, contemplative novel, but still enjoyed reading it.
I found the information about the famous pilgrimage from France to Spain interesting and it made me want to try something like that myself (as often happens when I read books like this). The narrative is fairly slow in that not that much actually happens, which meant I didn’t quite get into it as much as I thought I would. However, the story reveals a lot of what both Zoe and Martin are thinking and saying as they keep bumping into each other along the way, instead of an all-action narrative. This novel also manages to avoid being at all cheesy or over the top, which is another plus for me!
The characters didn’t hugely resonate with me; I struggled to properly connect with either Zoe or Martin, but I did find the novel to be an interesting read and one that made me think a little. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a smart, well-written novel about literal and non-literal journeys… if that makes any sense!