- File Size: 2488 KB
- Print Length: 284 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1405937181
- Publisher: Penguin Books (March 5, 2019)
- Publication Date: March 5, 2019
- Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07DMZ6714
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,380 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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The Salt Path: A Memoir Kindle Edition
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"Winn’s prose is powerful. She excels at description, and her apt metaphors are rooted in nature… an inspiring read, reminding us that there is salvation in nature, movement and the out-of-doors."—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Raynor Winn is a master of writing about nature and grief. The coast is the backbone of her memoir … a gripping story about a search for home, resilience and emotion, all the while in conversation with the sea.”—Guardian
“Winn writes with great humor, reflection and generosity.”—Salon
“This is a damn good book. Plain and simple.”—Medium
"This amazing tale of resilience…made me grateful for my loving family and how they make the journey—even when stressful—a whole lot easier.”—FIRST for Women
"Winn's chronicle is filled with beauty, humor and surprises. Glorious landscape a given, the loveliest scenery is the pair themselves, their affection and easy camaraderie treasures to behold. Facing grief, harsh elements, starvation and judgment about being homeless, they relish growing feelings of achievement and purpose. When, miraculously, Moth starts to feel better, their future grows more unclear. The Salt Path is a great travelogue of surroundings, passersby and local merchants, but its heart is in Winn and Moth finding meaning in the chaos."—Shelf Awareness
"Readers are immersed in a grueling and transformative adventure. Like the Winns, one feels 'salted' by the experience, however vicariously, drawn to the edge in defiance of fate and in search of a new life. They found it as well as a measure of acceptance, and their story is indelibly told."—Kirkus
"An astonishing narrative of two people dragging themselves from the depths of despair along some of the most dramatic landscapes in the country, looking for a solution to their problems and ultimately finding themselves."—Independent (UK)
"The Salt Path is a life-affirming tale of enduring love that smells of the sea and tastes of a rich life. With beautiful, immersive writing, it is a story heart-achingly and beautifully told."—Jackie Morris, illustrator of The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane
"In some ways The Salt Path reads like the ultimate drop-out odyssey, except that this journey isn't a life choice . . . What the book chiefly conveys is the human capacity for endurance and the regenerative power of nature . . . The Salt Path has reminded me to scrape last year's mud from my walking boots and get rambling again. I hope it has the same impact on millions of others."—The Times (UK)
"A remarkable and redemptive journey."—Financial Times
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In between, the writing is excellent, alive, subtle, unself-conscious, and Winn manages that most difficult of travel memoir mixes, a balance between the landscape, the encounters with others, the internal and personal journeys, and the building of the overall narrative arch. Not telling if they get to the end of the Path, or what happens or has happened when they do. This is a journey that readers should make for themselves. It's worth every page.
This is the kind of book that makes you think, are there people on the fringes of my community in similar circumstances? I know I will be offering many more meals to the people I come across. I have been hungry and poor and desperate, but not to the same degree and not for so long.
Who would I be stripped of everything and trying to survive? Especially in the the appalling English weather. I hope that they thrive and that the book is a big success. I devoured it in two evenings.
Top international reviews
I really warmed to both Raynor and Moth, I hope that they are both doing well and do hope that Raynor thinks about writing another book. This is not a sad book, although in parts it did make me cry but it is an uplifting read, inspirational and makes you question what you would do if faced in their situation. This book is a joy to read, Raynor's writing is wonderful. From descriptions of the weather, scenery, wildlife, observations on society, nature, other people and their relationship. This is a wonderful story of coming to terms with grief (premature grieving, something I know about unfortunately) and about finding yourself and what is really important when it seems that everything is lost.
There is a saying that has made its way into popular usage during our times of austerity that we’re only ever one paycheck away from homelessness. The couple featured in this book, through no fault of their own, except for perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, made an unwise decision and found themselves without a home.
After investing money in a friend’s business that eventually went bust owing creditors, Raynor Winn and her husband Moth spend months in endless courtroom battles trying to hang onto their home and livelihood after becoming liable for some of the company debt.
Their home in Wales, a farm complete with a business something they’ve lovingly built up from virtually nothing and raised a family in is eventually repossessed and they end up homeless. And if fate hadn’t dealt them a cruel enough blow, they learn that Moth has a terminal illness that will eventually leave him debilitated bit by bit.
They put their possessions into storage with a friend and using Paddy Dillon’s little brown book, The South West Coast Path: From Minehead to South Haven Point, decide to walk 630 miles of the South West Coastal Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall carrying large backpacks that would hold the basic necessities for wild camping along the way. The South West coastal area is my neck of the woods at the moment, so of course as a lover of memoirs of this nature, the book held an added fascination for me as I was familiar with some of the places they visited.
Through a shared love of nature and an unbreakable loving bond between this middle aged couple, they battle on through the elements, windswept and often soaking wet conditions, finding friendship and hostility, the kindness of strangers and the judgemental attitudes of those who regard anyone homeless as undesirable. Moth gradually starts to feel better. The pain from his illness abates the more they walk and his mind is clearer leading them to develop theories about treatments and the effects of his increased, enforced activity on a daily basis. When they first meet strangers who want to know their story and why they’re backpacking and walking the route, they invent a story of having sold up and having an adventure that others seem to find inspirational until they decide to just tell the truth about being homeless which brings mixed reactions ranging from horror and rapid withdrawals to understanding and kindness.
They meet other homeless people and through their own situation discover an infinity and understanding with those similarly positioned
With breathtaking descriptions of the sights and wildlife they see along their journey and inspirational insights into their own lives, life itself and homelessness, this book is an absolutely fascinating read.
“I tightened the hip belt on my pack, shut the door on the whining voice and kept walking. Life is now, this minute, it’s all we have. It’s all we need.”
How disappointed I was on reading this TERRIBLE book, no conversations about his diagnosis, Moth (husband) barely spoke apparently the whole journey and her description of the South West Coastal path was incredibly offensive to locals here. Then, if you can stick this book out, you will be further DISAPPOINTED as the end there is no big revelation about Moths illness or diagnosis!!! WTF??!! (Probably to be revealed in a second book deal!).
Also, I believe this book was written by TWO people as whenever she is describing a tourist attraction in Cornwall & Devon, the writing style completely changes to Wiki.com writing = Very suspicious.
Overall, no idea what the hype is about this book?? - In my personal opinion, one of the worst books I've unfortunately paid for and read another book to gather dust in a charity shop.
Since the book must have been largely written en route, it’s misleading to imply that it’s all from recollection. The publisher’s disclaimer on the last page somewhat suggests they have similar reservations.
So sad, they made a bad investment and lost all their money - but in these hard times a lot of peole are in the same boat but continue to behave honestly and with integrity. Many more people never have any money to invest in the first place.
To be fair, anyone who likes the coastal walks around the West Country might enjoy reading about that, & the descriptions of wild life are fine. BUT........a friend at book club asked "but what alternative did they have? Did you expect them to sign on for welfare & try to be re-housed in some awful place?" Well yes I did!! If they had the arrogance to think they were a cut above the rest of the population they deserved the physical hardships they (voluntarily) endured.
It might have been good to have read more about Moth but his plight was swamped by all the descriptions of the thin sleeping bags etc etc.
Don't buy this book unless you intend to frame the cover, which is beautiful!!
I did find it grating in part though - many poor decisions along the path....(spoiler alert!!) ------------------------------- no sun tan lotion (forgot!)... no water (forgot!) .... no medication ... (you guessed it...) I couldn't help but wonder (perhaps unfairly, admittedly) if this haphazard approach may have have been a part of the overall problem re losing the house!
I also found some of the cynicism held by the author in certain instances a little disconcerting.... I knew literally thousands of people in Cornwall, and didn't ever hear any of the dissatisfied murmurings apparently attributed to 'locals' against the National Trust... She speaks negatively about them a number of times in an 'axe to grind' kind of way.. I can understand Land Management can often be contentious, but personally I have only ever seen the National Trust help to preserve areas, particularly along the coast and foreshore. She also mentions Rhododendron clearance as though it isn't taking over certain vast areas of the Countryside (wow, maybe visit some of the Loch sides in Scotland as a perfect example of a monoculture crowding everything else out (yes Rhododendron) and she claims that it is actually a native species!!! (couldn't find any Ecology or Horticultural Author to agree with this theory....) and isn't at all invasive.....(but has pretty flowers)......hmm.....
The book is entertaining for me, as it helps to trigger long forgotten memories of certain areas in that part of the world, and, despite everything, I couldn't help but have a certain empathy with their plight, but I don't think I would personally read another book by this particular Author.
The first few pages set out in a brisk and somewhat vague fashion how Ray & Moth end up in such dire straits and then decide that their best course of action, instead of marshaling their assets and making a recovery plan, is to go on a walking holiday. Either by dint of shrewd planning or fortune this did turn out to be their best option, as it has resulted in a best-selling book – though if the outcome had been different then it would have been foolhardy in the extreme, given Moth’s purportedly frail health. This initial throat-clearing does contain some beautifully written and emotive vignettes of the couple’s tranquil and connected lifestyle in their smallholding in my native rural Wales. It was so richly yet simply conveyed that I was reluctant to leave it behind – whether by art or luck the abrupt change in the narrative neatly underscores the manner in which their lives had irrevocably changed.
The rest of the book is much ado about nothing really and the available material is stretched to the point of transparency….and in some cases incredulity. The first apparently insurmountable obstacle – that of trying to find a guidebook that describes the route in an anti-clockwise rather than a clockwise direction – sets the tone. Given that the path has land on one side and sea on the other, and that the hapless pair were camping wherever they stopped walking, a guidebook could probably have been dispensed with. There can’t be many people who haven’t at some point been to the toilet outdoors but again we are treated to several accounts of Ray squatting in bushes being stumbled upon by other walkers – though if they loll about in their sleeping bags until mid-morning I’m not quite sure what she expected.
I’m perplexed as to why the couple allow themselves to be drawn into explaining to people they meet how they have the leisure to devote all this time to their walking holiday – this seems a very contrived device to harp on about the reaction of ‘ordinary’ people to the homeless. Not very believable the first time, and not at all after several tedious repetitions. Given the minor dishonesties the couple have allowed themselves (thieving, runners from campsites etc) I don’t know why they didn’t simply lie about their circumstances. Of course, that wouldn’t make such good reading, nor would it underscore the laboured point about people’s conception of homelessness.
The purported reactions of people to the couple’s age also takes some swallowing – I walk hundreds of miles of footpaths a year in my mid fifties and not once has anyone ever marvelled that I am still ambulatory at such an advance age.
The author attempts to dramatise the narrative with the stoic heroism of Frodo and Sam plodding towards Mount Doom, but essentially they’re on a walking holiday (financed by state benefits I note) for their own gratification and they could quit any time they want. Many times, in the first half of the book I wondered why they kept going, given how bloody miserable it seemed to be. It’s not as if they were doing this for any higher purpose.
The annoying thing is that Ray has a delightfully descriptive writing style when she’s not indulging in bitter judgements (of other peoples’ perceived judgements) or grizzling about essentially self-imposed hardships. She clearly has a deep love of the natural world and has the gift of being able to very effectively plant a rich sensory experience in the reader’s mind by the power of her descriptions.
In summary, this wasn’t a bad read or story (being the operative word), and it contains enough prurient poverty porn to keep the weekly book clubs happy, but I certainly won’t be looking forward to ‘The Further Misadventures of Ray and Moth’.
These people even have names that grind on the teeth - 'Moth' for example. The constant calling to pick up the benefit cash doesn't help either.
Try Stephen Reynolds; 'Just Off For a Walk', much better; funny and well-written.
I found the style engaging and the story interesting but doubts began to creep in about just how true it all was, particularly the conversations which at times seemed contrived and exaggerated, manufactured as evidence to support a particular point. To call themselves 'old' at 50 and 53 was an untruth in itself but to labour the point with examples of comments such as 'That's amazing, doing this at your age' and 'You can't camp all that way...you're too old.'
Also, they either have incredibly bad luck in encountering rude ignorant people who are abusive and unhelpful, or they somehow attract them.
I really am unsure about this book. If it is genuine then it is inspirational but if it is manufactured literature based on fact, it loses some of its power to inspire.
I found the story itself to be less so. I don’t understand how the couple found themselves in such a precarious situation. The particulars are mentioned (bad advice/investments), but why were they so naive? Or did they always live as though they hovered at the brink of financial ruin? I wanted more information. And in the “awakening” that ultimately occurs, there was no reflection on the decisions that led to catastrophe.
The pace of the story moved quite slowly. At times, I felt I was on the journey with Ray, seeing each of the miles as they passed. Much of her writing is filled with details of the breathtaking country they traversed, and often the narrative became too heavy. The epiphany is the point of the story, not the endless discussion of small English towns, craggy beaches, gorse, and brambles.
The Salt Path is a great story, but one that could have been told more effectively with more personal insight and less nature dialogue.
No doubt I will be in a minority here, the book didn't impress me at all. Having lived in Devon and Cornwall for most of my adult life, I'm very fond of many of the places Raynor visited. However, I found her tone to be quite sarcastic and judgemental at times.
I can accept that she and her husband were dealt a rough hand, but much of it was through bad decisions on their part. They had lived most of their lives in relative luxury, a privilege not afforded many people living in the Westcountry (myself included). A nice word here and there could have really benefited some of the communities they passed through. Instead, it felt like she ridiculed many of them.
Overall, repetitive and sarcastic. A very middle class slant on poverty, which many of us live with on a daily basis and don't have the time or means to stop for cream teas along the way.