Book Review: The Salt Path By Raynor Winn
Content Warnings: Terminal illness, financial difficulty, homelessness
Synopsis: It is hard to imagine two worse things that could happen to someone, let alone happen within days of one another. Ray’s husband has been diagnosed with a rare terminal illness. The couple has also lost their cherished family home and business following a financial catastrophe.
With nothing left besides their independence and connection to nature, they decide to walk the South Coast Path from Minehead to Land’s End. Ray tells the story of their journey in this potent, emotional memoir. Following the path becomes their only purpose, as the two prepare to face whatever it is leading them towards.
The Salt Path was the Bristol Girl Book Group pick of this month. It wasn’t one that I voted for, and I was unsure at first since I often find memoirs a little slow. However, it would 100% get my vote in hindsight! Within the first chapter, I was in tears, irreversibly invested in following Ray’s story.
The reason that The Salt Path overcame my initial uncertainty was not that it paced along faster than any other memoir I have read. Instead, I came to understand that its gentle reflection and refusal to rush was sort of the point…
Contrasts are drawn between the tightly-scheduled, mile-counting, goal-smashing backpackers and the couple taking their time to appreciate the journey. It isn’t too much of a stretch to see how this can apply more widely to our own lives.
Ray’s perspective takes readers through the entirety of the book. In my view, nobody has a greater right to self-pity, yet she refuses to indulge it, relying on her strength of character and love. She inspires a great deal of admiration.
Having said that, Ray’s voice feels human rather than a demi-deity figure held up to show us how we should live our lives. Her words coax us out of our little bubbles for a while, to think about shared human experiences.
‘Everybody needs beauty as well as bread’
Made Me Think: From a personal perspective, Ray draws attention to ridiculous social inequalities in a way that is hard-hitting but lacks bitterness.
Some of these I wasn’t even aware of: they couldn’t get legal aid because the case was “too complicated”? How does that make sense in any process of logic, common sense or human decency? I was confronted with my own privilege in not needing to know about such issues.
What Bristol Girls Thought:
I asked the Bristol Girl Book Group for their thoughts on The Salt Path:
Firstly, it is unusual for a book to get a pretty much unanimous seal of approval from us! Our meetings are on a Monday evening so you can’t really blame us for unleashing the frustrations from the start of the working week onto unsuspecting authors! So the fact that we all enjoyed reading this book is a compliment of the highest degree.
Some things to bear in mind when deciding whether to read The Salt Path are that it isn’t exactly fast-paced and action-packed. It needs time set aside to properly get into it, but is well worth the initial effort!
We also agreed that some relationships, such as between Ray and her children. weren’t very fully developed, but this may have been to protect their privacy.
Overall, it is a life-affirming story that provoked a lot of conversation surrounding the nature of home, family, loss, responsibility and the miracles in small moments.
Read If: You would like to read a candid memoir that is also an enduring force for change.