Title: The Salt Path
Author: Raynor Winn
Publisher: Michael Joesph
Page Count: 288
Publication Date: 2018
Category/Genre: NonFiction, Memoir, Autobiography,
Good Reads Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.23)
My Rating: ★★★★☆(4)
Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home and livelihood is taken away. 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.
They have almost no money for food or shelter and must carry only the essentials for survival on their backs as 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.
A court battle that had been waging for over three years finally comes to settlement and in one fell swoop, Raynor and Moth’s lives are forever changed. They not only lost the court case but because they incurred massive debts, they also lost their home of 30 years, their money, their income and pretty much all of their possessions. If that wasn’t devastating enough, Moth was diagnosed with a degenerative disease, putting a six-year ‘expiration date’ on his head and a bleak short future on top.
Sometimes ‘systems’ fail us and sometimes very good people get caught in the red tape of bureaucracies. And that’s exactly what happened to this middle-aged, well-intentioned couple. Left on their own to defend themselves in the court case because they didn’t have the finances to hire a lawyer nor qualified for representation for free, Raynor had failed to properly submit the very documents and proof that would free them. Moral rights and wrongs didn’t matter, the system and it’s procedure only did. After losing everything, social and welfare assistance wasn’t afforded to them as non-priority for support.
Hiding under the stair as the bailiffs were banging on the door to collect the keys to the last piece of their lives, Raynor was struck with desperation and panic which inspired her to suggest taking some control back over their lives.
‘I was under the stairs when I decided to walk. In that moment, I hadn’t carefully considered walking 630 miles with a rucksack on my back, I hadn’t thought about how I could afford to do it, or that I’d be wild camping for nearly one hundred nights, or what I’d do afterwards. I hadn’t told my partner of thirty-two years that he was coming with me.’
This is truly a story of how resilient the human spirit can be. Of being resourceful and finding strength, of living life instead of giving up. And of the healing power of nature.
In this inspiring memoir, Raynor wrote about her emotions, thoughts, and experiences in such a poetic and beautiful manner that seemed to mimic the landscape and the heroic path they were traveling internally and externally.
“The lady set off, in search of summers long past, always just around the next corner. On a basic level, maybe all of us on the path were the same; perhaps we were all looking for something. Looking back, looking forward or just looking for something that was missing. Drawn to the edge, a strip of wilderness where we could be free to let the answers come, or not, to find a way of accepting life, our life, whatever that was. Were we searching this narrow margin between the land and the sea for another way of being, becoming edgelanders along the way. Stuck between one world and the next. Walking a thin line between tame and wild, lost and found, life and death. At the edge of existence.”
Raynor also touched on issues of homelessness, perceptions, and reactions to such and backstories that are often ignored or forgotten as people label or shun those less fortunate. It is a poignant reminder that encourages the reader to take a step back and ponder on their own potential bias or reactions.
This book really tugged at my heartstrings. It was stunning, deeply personal and highly emotional. There was a sense of desperation to live and to hold on to what you little you can, a feeling that I can identify with even if under different circumstances. Their struggle is painful but Raynor and Moth prove to be so much stronger than they thought, braver than they expected and healthier than ever before.
Raynor made me think about what’s really important to me, what matters most and empowered to keep going in times when everything feels and seems lost.