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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 book club 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.
“I came to understand that The Salt Path‘s gentle reflection and refusal to rush was sort of the point…”
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.
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.
“Bet you regret it now, my girl.” No, Mum. No, I don’t.
Read if: You would like to read a candid memoir that is also an enduring force for change.
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Have you read The Salt Path – what did you think? Do you have any recommendations for memoirs I can read next? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!