Th Ancient Way: Discoveries on the Path of Celtic Christianity by River Jordan

“entertaining, inspirational, and visceral; a moving narrative of typically missed breadcrumbs on the way to meaningful connections. A delightful, wandering story with profound, insightful resonance . . .”

What’s in a name? In this gem of a book, The Ancient Way: Discoveries on the Path of Celtic Christianity, author River Jordan beautifully illustrates that the answer makes all the difference in the world. A trip to Scotland becomes a journey, a journey becomes a pilgrimage, and a pilgrimage is defined by the power of intention.

In first-person, nonfiction narrative readers will think familiar for its intimate, accommodating style, River Jordan combines everything that makes both memoir and travelogue captivating. Her story begins with a nudge. “Sometimes I need to listen to the small voice that is the songline of my soul. To hear the whisper of, ‘This way, follow me.’ For some, it is the voice of God, for others their sixth sense. For me it is both; I see them as one and the same.” 

Following the lure of coincidence, a series of prompts leads to the west coast of Scotland. The ringing lilt of the name Iona spawns research, and as her will to travel grows, Jordan weighs the difficult way against a busy writer’s schedule and challenging circumstances. “A way would have to reveal itself where there was no way at all,” she concludes. In the end, Jordan employs practicality to get her from her Nashville home to Scotland. “Flexibility and a certain no-frills, down-to-earth sensibility can come in handy on the road. And making a pilgrimage to Iona was going to require a certain cowgirl can-do attitude.”

For all the reasons we’re attracted to a hero’s journey, we follow Jordan as she sets her sights on exploration and personal transformation against uncanny odds that verge on comical. Because it is the frugal, off-season month of November, the weather is frigid, ferry schedules are unreliable, and tourist establishments are closed. Aided by a travelling companion she calls her “anam cara,” she’s encumbered by too heavy a backpack and accommodated by strangers she meets through an online travelers’ global community called Couchsurfing. And yet she persists with an eyeful of wonder, a heart full of gratitude, and a string of prayer beads in her pocket to remind us that all is in the attitude. A lesser wanderer would have conceded defeat in the nearest pub.

Without being heavy-handed, this book speaks to the spiritual seeker, denominational or otherwise. The odyssey aligns spirit with intellect, certainty with curiosity, this world with the next, and all that has come before. Jordan writes, “There are dreams and there are destinies, and sometimes they cross over to become one and the same thing. If so, journeying on pilgrimage to Iona was as much God’s plan as it was mine, which meant we were in this thing together.”  

Artfully layering her journey’s steps and missteps with Celtic Christianity’s history, Jordan gifts the reader with perfectly placed fact to heighten her story. “Not all from the history volumes of Celtic Christianity was first kiss, first love, first light. The history of Celtic Christianity is filled with violence, Viking raids, murdered monks, and destroyed monasteries.”

Of the ancient Celts conversion to the Irish monk, Columba’s, novel idea of Christianity, she depicts a melding: “All that was best of their Celtic nature wasn’t lost in translation: they brought it to the table. Reading those histories, I think those monks of Columba’s took a good look at what the Celts had pulled out of their spiritual backpacks and said, ‘Hey, this is good. I think we can use this.’”

A narrative nonfiction book for travelers in search of The Divine, The Ancient Way: Discoveries on the Path of Celtic Christianity takes you from the hills of Tennessee to the hallowed ground of Scotland’s Iona Abbey, on a wing and a prayer, with help from the kindness of strangers. It’s entertaining, inspirational, and visceral; a moving narrative of typically missed breadcrumbs on the way to meaningful connections. A delightful, wandering story with profound, insightful resonance you’ll want to share with your friends, The Ancient Way: Discoveries on the Path of Celtic Christianity encourages you to keep an eye on the sacred along the road to self-discovery.

Claire Fullerton is a staff reviewer at New York Journal of Books.

Malibu Burning: Nonfiction book review

47975600. sy475
I’m sharing my book review here of the wildly popular book, Malibu Burning: the real-life Story Behind LA’s Most Devastating Wildfire. This book is making waves in my seaside, hometown.
I live in Malibu, and this time last year, my husband and I, our two German shepherds and our 15-year-old black cat evacuated in haste, when the Woolsey Fire, which started in Thousand Oaks, California, traveled through the Santa Monica Mountains behind our house and reached the ridge of our property. In frantic urgency, we turned left on the Pacific Coast Highway and headed north, away from Malibu’s town center. It was here we discovered that the 320 acres of the state park near our home were violently up in flames. We were evacuated for 24 days, the first four of which we had no information as to whether our house was standing. It was total chaos in Malibu. The small coastal town was overwhelmed and ill-prepared for a wildfire of such swift, epic proportions. In some ways, it was every man for himself. In others, it was the ultimate exercise of a heroic feat as neighbor helped neighbor.
Once they allowed Malibu’s anxious and traumatized citizens back to their homes to assess the fallout, locals assembled at relief centers, sharing their stories. Among them, writer Robert Kerbeck, who took it upon himself to do a bit of investigative reporting as to how the fire started, then set about the business of collecting the first-person stories of many who refused evacuation orders and remained in the thick of the heinous drama in an effort at protecting their neighborhood.
The stories in Malibu Burning are staggering. Malibu local, Robert Kerbeck, has done a magnificent job in writing this book and getting it published in such a short span of time. Many in Malibu were so independently blindsided, there was little way of telling what went on behind our backs. We now have a larger story.
Book Review:


When tragedy engulfs a community, the media report the overarching highlights, typically from an aerial view. In Malibu Burning, author Robert Kerbeck portrays the hidden story—the nuanced blow-by-blow minutia told with such investigative reporting skills as to lend immediate urgency with a sense of present tense. It can’t be easy to shake oneself off and get organized, after surviving what can only be called the surreal worst, which is what Kerbeck basically did in writing this riveting book. Malibu Burning is a boots-on-the-ground story; an impassioned order from chaos, cohesive treatise told with a clear-eyed, objective voice. Weaving facts with vivid personal accounts in this cause and effect human interest story, this is a book so well-wrought as to hold one’s attention with all the characteristics of a gripping novel. It takes a deft hand to avoid judgment or accusation in a painstakingly researched nonfiction book. Robert Kerbeck’s Malibu Burning is a book with a resonating heartbeat. It sobers by threading the true stories of Malibu’s citizens who navigated the devastating Woolsey wildfire and simultaneously warms the heart by depicting the power of spirit.

Malibu Burning by Robert Kerbeck is available at independent book stores and all online book outlets.