The Salt Path – Raynor Winn

Published By: Penguin
Pages: 288
Released On: 22/03/2018

Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home is taken away and they lose their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.

Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.

The Salt Path is an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.

*****

I have been debating buying this ever since it came out really. I’d pick it up and put it down again, never really taking the chance. But after seeing the positive reaction book number three got, I decided to take the plunge and order all of them. And basically, what I got with this one was a pure emotional rollercoaster. I found myself in tears almost instantly, the way she writes is so tender and beautiful it’s almost like poetry. It reads almost like a novel rather than a non fiction. I’ve not read a memoir that flows as naturally as this.

I have always wanted to walk the Jurassic Coast which makes up some of the South West walk. But considering I am now in a wheelchair when I leave the house, I can’t see that happening any time soon. And so I live precariously through this book.

I felt a kinship with Moth. I too have a complex neurological condition. I mean, mine shouldn’t kill me – although tell that to my brain when it’s making me head but the wall – but I can completely understand the lack of control, the terror, the stress, the anger, the sadness, the loneliness and the darkness that a diagnosis like that can cause.

You’d think a book that is 250+ pages of just documenting a walk would be dull. But it’s not. Somehow, she’s managed to find a way of making it so exciting and thrilling and absorbing. I know some reviews mention it’s repetitiveness as a negative. But for me, I quite liked it. It’s not so repetitive that it gets boring, but it shows how monotonous something like this can be, and it adds to the difficulty of their journey.

I also found it really quite funny. I’m not sure if she set out to be funny, but there are elements that definitely raised a smile, particularly the frequent mistaken identity of Moth for poet Simon Armitage.

I assume she took a notebook with her to document the walk, as I can’t believe she’d be able to write with such clarity of detail once it was finished. Everything about it is beautiful.

She’s found this gorgeous blend of showing the beauty of the natural world, but also the danger it carries. The love she has for the flowers and the land, but the respect she has for the sea and the heat – it’s unbelievably moving.

One thing I thought was interesting was it offers a different look at homelessness. When we think of a homeless person, we all tend to have a stereotypical image. But Raynor and Moth are two learned people, who had a business, a nice home and a family, who just so happened to have it all whipped out from under their feet. But as soon as they tell people they’re homeless, they’re referred to as tramps, and some of the reactions are disgusting. Whether you’re homeless because of choice, because of financial or legal worries, or because of addiction or health, you don’t deserve to be treated like dirt. And this book really sticks up for that change in perception.

You can really feel her and Moth’s heart in this. It really pulls at the heartstrings. It’s sad and maddening and emotional, but also joyful and hopeful and wonderful. It’s an exceptional story and it’s sad that, thanks to Moth’s illness, their journey will prematurely end.

I don’t really have any expectations for the next two books, but I’m really looking forward to reading them, to continue this journey,

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