While most of us were taught not to discuss religion in polite company, travel writer Lori Erickson wonders: what happens if we talk about it a lot? And visit the places we each find holy? In her newest collection of essays, “Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God,” Erickson recounts her travels to some of the more well-known holy sites, such as Lourdes and Jerusalem, as well as those a bit more off the beaten track. Written in a voice that is both respectful and playful, Erickson is the perfect traveling companion for this spiritual journey.
In part because Erickson isn’t afraid to share her own questions and failings. More than a travelogue, the essays in “Holy Rover” include stories of Erickson’s personal faith and failings, making for some moving comparisons — such as in her essay about Lourdes, a place known for miraculous healing, where she also recounts her infant son’s battle with bacterial meningitis. Discussions of miracles can lead to “murky theological waters,” but in Erickson’s capable hands she widens the definition and, in doing so, may widen our perspective just a bit.
Erickson has a particular talent for making complex theological ideas accessible by maintaining the sense of childhood wonder and awe she cultivated from life on her family’s dairy farm outside Decorah. Being a “free-range” child, Erickson “knew every square foot of our farm and spent endless hours exploring our woods.” She brings this same sense of respectful curiosity to her religious research. While other writers might veer into cultural inappropriateness in their travels and practice, Erickson maintains a healthy sense of self-awareness, modeling a reverential approach to new cultures and traditions.
A wonderful journey of one woman’s spiritual quest, “Holy Rover” is a marvelous book for seekers and seers alike.