If you’re looking for a book to get cosy with this autumn, may I recommend The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn.
Following on from The Salt Path, Raynor’s second book documents what happens when she and her husband Moth return home from their 630 mile walk along the South West Coast Path. (You can read my review of The Salt Path here.)
What I found so interesting about this book is that it’s sometimes easy to think that once someone has a life-changing journey, their life magically becomes amazing.
But unfortunately that’s not the real world, and I know after returning from my own grown up gap year that coming home after travelling isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
For Raynor and Moth, life is extra tough as they are technically still homeless and Moth’s rare terminal brain disease begins to impact his daily life more and more.
The Wild Silence begins with the couple staying in an old chapel in the village of Polruan, Cornwall. But while Moth throws himself into college life, Raynor is left alone, fruitlessly applying for jobs, while simultaneously missing the path and worrying about the future. She becomes withdrawn and unable to talk to people. Only the stolen moments in nature bring her feelings of calm.
As always, Raynor’s descriptions of the sea, the land, and the creatures in it are stunningly beautiful. And it’s clear to see why. From her childhood she has been acutely aware of nature and is completely at one with it.
It’s funny, as I actually started to read this book on a kindle and just couldn’t get into it. Then I switched to a physical copy of the book and instantly got swept away to rugged coastlines and sweeping countryside views. It’s almost like it’s a story that needs to be felt, to be held.
The first part of The Wild Silence is actually quite sad to read, after the high The Salt Path finished on. It deals with Raynor’s own sadness at the couple’s current situation in life and shines a light on the problem of the hidden homeless and our attitudes towards people who find themselves in these situations.
Raynor also goes through some difficult life moments, with her mother’s declining health and worries about Moth’s future.
One of the things I really enjoyed reading about was how the writing of The Salt Path actually came about. Nowadays, I think it’s very normal for people to begin big, epic expeditions with a book deal already in place, or at least the knowledge that they are going to try and sell the story of their trip when they get home.
But The Salt Path really was written from a place of love, as a gift for Moth, with absolutely no idea of how big it would one day become.
A place to call home
Later the couple get given the opportunity to breathe life back into a beautiful farmhouse in the Cornish hills. This was my favoruite part of the book, as you could feel new life breathing into them as they transformed the rundown area.
The absolute scale of the challenge would have totally put me off. But Raynor and Moth’s quiet determination and absolute belief in the importance of supporting nature is admirable to behold. The parallels between nature being restored and Moth’s strength returning keeps you turning the pages.
Something I loved about this period in their lives is that it also encouraged Raynor and Moth to begin to trust people again. One of the most heart-breaking things in The Salt Path was how devastated they were by the life-long friend who had turned on them, which ultimately led to them losing their family home.
But very slowly, and almost with a sense of disbelief, they come to realise that people can be trusted.
Walking into the future
The final part of The Wild Silence documents a trek through Iceland the couple make with friends. Once again, I was left wondering how on earth they would complete it, setting off close to winter, with Moth’s health problems.
But I think their connection to nature, and the fact that rather than being scared of it, they are at one with it, is something that sees them through every challenge.
There were so many lines in the book that stood out to me, that I wanted to write down so I could always remember them. But I think one of my favourite is this one. It was written in reference to when Moth got his diagnosis and the doctor told him to be careful on the stairs in the future.
“Don’t ‘be careful on the stairs’, run up them, run as fast as you can with no fear of clocks ticking or time passing.”
We all only have a certain time on this earth and what I love about Raynor and Moth is that they always seem to be determined to make the most of every minute of it.
Overall this is a book about learning to live again, learning to let go, trusting in nature and maybe, just maybe, believing in miracles.
If you enjoyed this review of The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn, you can buy a copy of the book from Amazon, Waterstones, or through Bookshop.org, which supports independent booksellers. (By buying through these links I make a small commission, at no cost to yourself, which enables me to keep running this blog.)
If you’re looking for more books about epic journeys to see you through the next few months, check out my review of Revolutionary Ride by Lois Pryce or this one of The Pants of Perspective by Anna McNuff.