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The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose, Nobel prize winner Bob Dylan nasally whined way back in 1965 on the track A Rolling Stone. For Dylan, who was already by then well on the way to becoming a household name, the oft-quoted saying has never been tested. And for Raynor Winn, up until recently an unknown small-holding farmer, now an internationally-acclaimed writer, the same is true.

Winn and her husband Moth had everything they had ever dreamed of when – within days – they lost it all.

Their picturesque small holding with its designer sheep and stone farmhouse, the place where they had happily raised their now-adult children, was abruptly lost in a bankruptcy sale after they invested in a friend’s business, little realising their home was collateral. At the same time, Moth, who had for years been suffering from shoulder pain they assumed was from a fall, was given a terminal diagnosis. Homeless, the pair hid from the bailiffs as long as they could. Not long enough to come up with a plan to save their home and income, but for sufficient time for an idea to seed.

Fifty-something, ill and depressed, they had few options when they retrieved from their soon-to-be-repossessed bookshelves a guide book which was to (once again) change the course of their lives. They set out with almost no money, few possessions and no idea if they had the ability or strength to do it, on a 630-mile walk along the South-West Coast Path which stretches from Somerset to Dorset. With sleeping bags too light for the changing weather, a small pup tent, and insufficient income from social security to eat properly, or to pay for campgrounds, they wild-camped and faced their desperate conditions head on.

They quickly learnt how their country viewed its homeless. There, on the fringes of society, they met mysterious prophets and many like themselves who had fallen on hard times and been shunned. Some had addiction problems but the majority had simply been subsumed by strange twists of fate or had been swept away on a tide of change to the outliers of so-called civilisation.

Set against a backdrop of breath-taking beauty, this is a gripping tale of love, faith, hope and redemption.

Reviewer: Peta Stavelli

Michael Joseph Books (distributed by Penguin NZ)

Reviewed by Peta Stavelli


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