A memoir from debut author Raynor Winn, The Salt Path begins with a series of life-altering catastrophes: Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill and has been given months left to live, they lose their home and entire livelihood.
With nothing left and little time, the couple make the brave and impulsive decision to walk 630 miles along the South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall. Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they wild-camp amongst the weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. But through every step, every encounter and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey – and, eventually, one of salvation.
Heartbreaking and uplifting in equal measure, the novel reveals how the healing power of nature helped Raynor come to terms with her grief. It explores the true meaning of ‘home’: how it can be lost, rebuilt, and rediscovered in the most unexpected of ways. It shows, in unflinchingly honest glory, the resilience of the human spirit. It proves that love can endure all things.
As the Sunday Times stated, “It's a tale of triumph: of hope over despair”. The publication also praised Raynor’s “exquisite” writing and "magical" descriptions of the sea-swept landscapes – her prose is so immersive and beautiful, you’ll be shocked it’s her first ever book.
Interspersed with the evocative descriptions of the coastal path is an important commentary on what it means to be homeless. In an interview with the Express, 55-year-old Raynor said she “never in a million years” expected to become homeless, and was shocked by strangers’ reactions when she told them she was sleeping rough: "It completely changed my sense of self to realise that woman saw me as a drunken tramp,” she said of one encounter.
The housing and homelessness charity Shelter estimates more than 300,000 people in the UK have nowhere to live. But those figures don't include the growing number of ‘hidden homeless’ – people like Raynor and Moth – who may not appear to be homeless but are forced to stay with friends or sleep in cars and tents after losing their home.
Now in the midst of a whirlwind success surrounding her novel, Raynor is hoping to raise awareness of hidden homelessness in the UK, and is due to make a series of festival appearances this summer. She and her husband – who has gone back to university to study Horticulture – now live in a house on the path in Fowey, Cornwall, and still walk along it religiously every day with their little dog Monty. The couple are planning more long-term walking trips in the future too, with a trip to the Arctic circle next on the cards.
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