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After years on the road performing at sold-out venues, Tyson Motsenbocker returned home to the impending death of his 57-year-old hero and mother. He begged God to heal her, but she died anyway. When they buried her body, Tyson also buried the childhood version of his faith.
Shortly before her death, however, Tyson became intrigued by the complicated legacy of Father Junipero Serra, the 18th-century Franciscan monk and canonized saint who dedicated his life to the idea that tragedy and suffering are portals to renewal. Father Serra built Missions up and down the California coast, spreading Christianity, as well as enabling and aiding in the oppression and colonization of the native Californians. Tyson discovered Serra’s “El Camino Real,” a 600-mile pilgrimage route up the California coast that had been largely forgotten for more than 200 years.
Two days after they buried his mother, Tyson set out on a pilgrimage of sorts, intending to walk from San Diego to San Francisco along the El Camino, following in the footsteps of the saint. Tyson’s journey takes him down smog-choked highways, across fog-laden beaches, past multi-million-dollar coastal estates, and along the towering cliffs of Big Sur. And as he walks, Tyson also wrestles with his faith, questioning the pat answers and easy prayers he once readily accepted, trying to understand how hope and tragedy can all be wrapped up in the same God. The people he meets along the way challenge his understanding of the meaning of security, of what it means to live a meaningful life, and of the legacies we all leave behind.
Where the Waves Turn Back is both part journal and part spiritual memoir, and ultimately, a thrilling and deeply satisfying read that asks questions that will resonate with readers seeking meaning in an utterly disorienting age.
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