Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Salt Path - Raynor Winn


For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a big fan of books written by people who test themselves by long, cross-country trips. It doesn’t matter whether they are walking, riding bicycles or motorbikes, boating, or even driving, I’ve always envied the authors. But now something a little different has come along: Raynor Winn has written a long-walk kind of memoir with a twist. The Salt Path is about the 630-mile walk along part of England’s southern coast that Raynor and her husband Moth took on only because they suddenly found themselves homeless and jobless. Needless to say, this time around I don’t envy the author one little bit.


It could perhaps be argued that Raynor and Moth brought their problems upon themselves, but the only thing they were really guilty of was being a little too naive and trusting when it came to doing business with a man Moth had known since childhood. When that man’s business failed, he wasted little time coming after the couple’s home and business to compensate himself for their supposed share of the failed company’s debts and obligations. Raynor and Moth tried to defend themselves in court, but not being able to afford a competent attorney turned out to be their downfall- and at the end, they were left with only a few days to vacate the property. Everything they owned, and life as they knew it, was gone.


Well, it could just not get much worse than that, could it? The short answer is “yes, it could,” and it does exactly that when within a matter of days of losing their home and everything they own, Moth is diagnosed with an illness likely to claim his life within five years. So, with no place to go, and no money other than the minimal benefits they are eligible for each month, Raynor and Moth begin walking westward along England’s southern coast even though they have no idea what they will do once they come to the end of the trail months later.


The Salt Path is Winn’s account of what it was like for two people in their fifties to strap rather heavy packs onto their backs and trudge along during daylight hours without having any idea where they will be pitching their tent at the end of the day. Along the way, the pair endures the heat of the day, cold and wet nights that make it near impossible to sleep, the constant problem of finding enough water to keep themselves safely hydrated, and living on whatever meager diet they can afford. And if that is not already bad enough, they have to live with the societal stigma of being homeless when people they encounter along the way more times than not treat them as if they are carrying the plague simply because they are homeless. It is almost as if homelessness is a contagious disease. 


Bottom Line: Sad as The Salt Path is, for this reader the saddest part of all is the way that their fellow citizens treat Ray and Moth as soon as they learn that the couple are not voluntary hikers/campers out on some lark. This is particularly disappointing when the penny drops in the middle of a conversation and Ray and Moth’s new “friends” abruptly excuse themselves and leave the area as quickly as their feet can carry them away. The Salt Path has a sequel titled The Wild Silence, but I’m not sure that I’m up to reading that one just yet.


Author Raynor Winn & Her Husband Moth

14 comments:

  1. As you know we share the same sentiments about this book. I kept willing something nice to happen but the battle was endless. Honestly, when the gull stole Raynor's pasty I was fit to weep. Excellent review, Sam. Like you I'm not up to reading the sequel just yet, with luck though it will be a bit more hopeful. She certainly looked ok on the recent TV docs. I've seen her on.

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    1. It was nice to see them get a reprieve of sorts at the end even though it didn't sound like an answer that would last for too long. I got a notice that the second book had unexpectedly become available, and I'm picking it up tomorrow. Not sure if I'll read it now or not, though.

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  2. I added this to my list when I saw Cathy's review. I think I would enjoy this like this as much as the two of you did.

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    1. It's a troubling book, Diane, but it's a situation that way too many people face these days. Winn is a good writer, and this memoir is pretty frank.

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  3. Great review. I felt much the same. While it has some tough moments, the sequel isn't as heartbreaking. I didn't find it quite as compelling a read, either,though.

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    1. I'm picking up the sequel tomorrow only because it suddenly became available at my library, but I'm not really in the mood to pick the story back up right now. Not sure if this is the moment to read it or not.

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  4. I can't imagine being homeless, especially not in my fifties. Their situation just makes me so sad. Losing everything like that would be so hard.

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    1. They are two of the emotionally strongest people I can imagine, Lark. Don't know how they kept their sanity after being hit will all the bad news they received in such a short period of time.

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  5. I don't think I'm up to The Salt Path right now. I may admire the strength of the couple, but don't want another look at the way people fail in their humanity right now.

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    1. I abandoned the sequel just this morning while waiting for my COVID booster shot. Just not ready to go back there so soon. There is something to be learned from watching the bad behavior of others, but it can be a deflating process at the same time.

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  6. That is a very scary scenario that the couple was faced with. It was pretty plucky to just start hiking a trail but what other choice did they have? I am surprised that so many people rejected them just for the fact that they were truly homeless. Also surprised that they could lose everything because of a suit.

    I will keep this book in mind for the future but not in a rush to read it now.

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    1. It's almost as the people they ran into on the trail were afraid of them and didn't want to be reminded that none of us are really as secure as we would like to believe we are.

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    2. Ah, that could be a reason. It is at least more understandable. We all worry about that. My husband is very paranoid about not having enough money in old age (we are already there of course).

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    3. I think a lot of people in middle age start feeling the pressure to be prepared for old age, but they really don't want to think about it at that point and they semi-panic. That makes them resent people like the author and her husband when they come across them. I think the reminder that "failure" is always a possibility scares them to death.

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