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The Pilgrim by Joy Margetts – Interview and Book Review

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this site. After catching Covid on my summer holiday, life was thrown up in the air and landed in little pieces for a good while as it affected me in completely unforeseen ways – mostly neurological. Even some days now I’m still getting the lagging effects: dizziness, weakness and a general feeling of not quite being here.

The reason I tell you this was that back in July I was scheduled to be part of Joy Margett’s book tour for her amazing new book, The Pilgrim, sequel to The Healing which I reviewed here last year. Because Covid threw everything out, I haven’t been able to upload my review and interview with Joy until now – but I also can tell you that the book has stayed with me, because I actually read it while I was very sick with Covid, unable to get out of bed. It was a comfort for me during those days to soak in Joy’s words of warmth and a story I became caught up in even through my own fog. I’d loved the gentle and wise character of Hywel through The Healing so was thrilled to see that this new book focuses on his character as he leads a band of diverse folk on a pilgrimage to save his own place in life – and his own soul. I love Hywel’s origin story because it doesn’t begin in a place you might expect for a medieval monk – it begins in a place of conflict and betrayal, with Hywel leaving his home in disgrace and eventually seeking refuge and redemption among the Cistercians of Abbey Cwmhir. Because Hywel’s story is nuanced and begins in a place of difficulty, the reader can identify with his own inner struggle as he journeys with the other pilgrims and watches the way they practice their own faith. I love the exploration of forgiveness in this book, especially in terms of Hywel’s struggle to forgive himself after a huge family betrayal, and his coming to terms with his own identity and past.

Like the first book in the series, I found this book a peaceful and beautifully written companion on my own journey of faith and through life. It spoke to me in a time of turmoil, and I know it will speak to many of you, too. I asked Joy to write about her own thoughts about and experience of forgiveness, and here’s what she says:

Joy Margetts

Understanding and accepting forgiveness

The idea for my second novel The Pilgrim came from a scene in my first, The Healing. In it, Brother Hywel reveals to Philip a bit of his own history, his secret guilt. How a youthful indiscretion set into motion a series of devastating consequences for people he cared about deeply. He does so to illustrate to his younger friend how powerful forgiveness is in bringing about transformation in our lives.

So in fleshing out Brother Hywel’s story, The Pilgrim inevitably became a story of one man’s journey to understand and accept forgiveness. Fairly early on in the story he is offered forgiveness by the man he has hurt and betrayed. At this point in the story Hywel is still Hal, not yet having entered monastic life.  As his friend, Cenred, is dying, he tells him that he has forgiven him, but then goes on to say this:

‘I have but one thing to ask you in return.’

Hal lifted his eyes to meet those of his friend. ‘Anything! I will do anything. Tell me what I must do.’

The desire to put things right, to somehow negate the pain and grief his actions had caused this man, was so overpowering.

‘Forgive yourself.’

Hal was confused, and also disappointed. Was there not something else he could do? What Cenred was asking was impossible.

He felt a squeeze on his hand again. Cenred had closed his eyes, but seemed determined to say more.

‘I must commend myself to God’s forgiveness soon. You will find God will forgive you also, if you come to Him truly repentant. But, Hal, accepting that you are forgiven and forgiving yourself… those are the only ways that you will be able to walk free… of the guilt and pain you are bearing now.

‘You are so young, Hal, and there is so much good you can do with the rest of your life. But to do so you must be free. It is what I desire most for you. What I long for.’

The grace gift of God

Image of a large cross, dark against a blue sky with sun rising above a cloud

Although he struggles to embrace the enormity of those words when they are spoken, Hywel does eventually come to understand them. It takes an encounter with God at the foot of the Cross, and a personal revelation of God’s mercy and grace, for him to realise the extent of the forgiveness on offer to him. Still he has to accept it for himself, receive it as the grace gift it is – a gift still offered freely by the cross of Christ for each one of us who willingly responds to Him. 

Hywel’s journey continues. For to truly know freedom, to truly become the man God has called him to be, he must forgive himself. He hears the stories of two of his travelling companions. Both have experienced the burden of living with guilt, and both in their own ways have come into a new understanding of the power of forgiving self. As Hywel struggles to come to that point himself, so I believe we all can struggle with forgiving ourselves.

Forgive, as you have been forgiven

In His story of The Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18 : 21 -35) Jesus taught that we ought to forgive as we have been forgiven. Forgiving others is not always easy, but perhaps we feel more inclined to do so when we understand how much we have been forgiven by God. But what if Jesus meant His words to apply to forgiving ourselves also? Forgive yourself, as you have been forgiven.

I think we sometimes feel we have to continue to carry the guilt for the things we are ashamed of, long after God has forgiven us. That somehow we are serving some sort of penance by doing so. But that is not living in the grace of God. If He has forgiven us then there is no more to pay – the Cross has done it all. Guilt and shame can continue to keep us burdened and bound, and self-condemnation is a favourite tool of the enemy to keep us from living in the freedom that God’s forgiveness offers us.

Scripture says if I belong to Christ, then I am no longer condemned (Romans 8:1) If God does not condemn me, than neither should I condemn myself. We need to be truly repentant for our mistakes, of course, but once we have come to the Cross and received His forgiveness, it is a done deal. Accepting and receiving God’s forgiveness means letting go of our guilt and self-condemnation once and for all. Whether it be in a small stone church, or a wind- swept mountain top, or in a monastery guest house – there will come a time when we, as Hywel and his fellow pilgrims did, need to forgive ourselves and walk free of our burdens.

Thank you so much to Joy for these words of wisdom and grace – I know they will speak to so many of us. Do pick up Joy’s books on Amazon, Eden, Waterstones or on her website,

Joy Margetts is a published author and blogger. Her books are works of Christian Historical fiction. Set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, they tell stories of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle. You can find Joy at

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