Debut author Winn narrates a moving memoir of identities lost and found along England’s wind-swept South West Coast Path.
Having lost their farm and livelihood through a judicial misstep, and with her husband, Moth, diagnosed with a terminal illness only days before, a comfortable existence was cruelly whisked away. With few options and even less money, the couple determined to walk and camp the entire 630-mile stretch of the path, from Minehead in the north through Poole on the English Channel, not knowing how far a pair of 50-somethings not in the best of shape might reach. Many people’s uncharitable reactions to their homeless state—one would think they were lepers—did not help matters, though those attitudes were often balanced by unexpected gestures of generosity. Along the way, their strength faltered and was regained. The unbearable became bearable, and despair gave way to resolve. The path became home and, more, a godsend. “Life is now,” writes the author, “this minute. It's all we have. It's all we need.” The saga opens with a tinge of melodrama (understandably), and Winn displays a mercurial prose style that takes a while to settle down and achieve simplicity and clarity of observation. The author’s descriptive passages show a keen appreciation for coastal ecologies and the enchantment of moments in the wild. If some vignettes strain credulity, readers will quickly forget as they come to genuinely admire the couple’s fortitude and resiliency. The book is not without humor or healthy portions of irony and self-doubt. Throughout, 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.