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Review of Raynor Winn’s 2 Monumental Books about Homelessness and Illness

Review of Raynor Winn’s 2 Monumental Books about Homelessness and Illness

In one breath I finished reading Raynor Winn’s books about homelessness. It doesn’t happen often to me anymore that I’m so enthusiastic about books!

What is the definition of homelessness? It can be “not having sufficient resources to afford a roof above your head”. I have also found “living in homes that are below the minimum standard or are not permanently employed”.

If the definition is “not having a permanent address”, then Tom and I have had 2 periods of homelessness. One was when we had sold our house and the municipality did not want to give us a residence permit on the office building we were living in.

The other one when we had sold that building, put all our stuff in a storage and went traveling for a year. But you’ll agree with me, that we were not really homeless. However, it did make me more receptive to Raynor Winn’s books about homelessness.

Two monumental books about homelessness

The Salt Path

Books about Homelessness

In the same week Raynor Winn and her husband Moth lost a lawsuit over their Welsh farm, Moth got the diagnosis of CBD, a terminal disease that predicted he would only live for 2 more years, maybe.

I knew nothing about the book before I started reading it, and after a couple of chapters, although intrigued by the story and grabbed by the writing style, I thought it was fiction. Because who can have such an awful lot of bad luck all at one, right?

As said, the book grabbed me from page 1. The way Winn uses her words really appeals to me. The more so when I discovered she was over 50 when she started to write and The Salt Path was her debut.

CBD, Corticobasal Degeneration

Abbreviations are always confusing because there are so many other options. After all, CBD is also Cannabis oil (Cannabidiol) and that is definitely not meant here. Corticobasal Degeneration is a rare neurodegenerative illness which has some similarities with dementia: problems with speech, memory, movement and the presence of Tau proteins.

When the doctor explained to Moth Winn he was diagnosed with this disease, he also recommended restraining himself from too much effort. Avoid being anxious, avoid staircases and in general keep calm.

How could the Winns do that, if they just lost their house and with that their income? They had to live on £48 per week and didn’t want to be a burden to their family or their friends.

South West Coast Path

Long distance walking

They decided to walk the 630-mile long South West Coast Path. You can’t do much with £48 in the UK, so they camp wild and live mainly on cheap noodles.

What struck me most was the way other people reacted to them. Camping wild, walking in all kinds of weather and not having enough food did something to the way they looked. And being prejudiced is an easy response to what someone sees. That this prejudice resulted in shouting at them and even kicking them was horrible!

They learned that lesson quickly. Telling people they were homeless and walking the trail because they didn’t know what else to do, resulted in a different response than telling they sold their house and had taken a year to think about what the next step would be. The first brought terrified looks and quickly broken off conversations, the latter the exclamation of how inspiring they were.

Several layers

You can read the book at several levels.

  • It is a description of the South West Coast Path and of the challenges the Winns encounter walking and camping;
  • Raynor’s fascination with nature results in a beautiful image of the flora and fauna of southern England and definitely inspires to want to walk that path too;
  • What process does someone go through when you lose everything, even the prospect of life;
  • How to deal with illness and the possibility that the love of your life will soon be gone?

This book is such a great read. Raynor Winn takes you by the hand and lets you into her life and in her head in a truly touching way.

Title: The Salt Path
Writer: Raynor Winn
Published: 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books
Formats: paperback, Kindle, ePub

(I read most books on my Kobo e-reader. You can read here why!)

The Wild Silence

When I finished reading The Salt Path I wanted to know everything about this couple, homelessness and Moth’s illness. And soon enough discovered she wrote a second book: The Wild Silence.

This book is totally different from the first one and at the same time it’s not. The similarities are the writing style, the difficult decisions, the reflections, learning to deal with deterioration and the long distance walking. Different is the sequel to the walk, where Moth goes back to university for a study and Raynor has to get used to living in a house. And above all, how to regain her trust in other people.

A farmer’s daughter with an ecological heart

Old farmhouse

Where the first book was mainly about loss and how to deal with it, in this second book she expresses more concerns about nature conservation. They get the opportunity to pick up the challenge of nature conservation when a farm is offered to them. They intend to restore the dead soil that has been ruined by pesticides.

The way Winn describes the food chain and how everything is connected, how one cannot survive without the other and vice versa, makes you realize how wonderful nature is. And what a bad job we all do preserving it.

Keeping disease at bay

Reading these books and getting enthusiastic like me, you are going to love this couple and start hoping Moth will overcome his CBD. Unfortunately the books are describing reality. They’re not Hollywood fiction with a happy end against all odds.

That does not alter the fact that Moth already lives 5 years longer from the first predictions indicated. Rather than remain comfortable and spare himself, they continue to walk long distances and tackle new activities.

Title: The Wild Silence
Writer: Raynor Winn
Published: 2020
Publisher: Penguin Books
Formats: paperback, Kindle, ePub


You will probably know whether I recommend these books or not, won’t you? I am so excited that I cannot say YES enough to this question. As I recently said to a friend, it’s been ages since I’ve been so captivated by a story. Need I say more. 🙂

Reviews of books I have read:
Review: Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. What is the most Important in Life?

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12 thoughts on “Review of Raynor Winn’s 2 Monumental Books about Homelessness and Illness”

  1. Hi Hannie,

    Thank you very much for the recommendation of these 2 amazing books. Personally ‘The Salt Path’ is the one I am going to read first and then move on to the ‘The Wild Silence’. I might even order both of these books from our local library.
    These books are such a great reminder about how we take our health and house for granted. I am sending my gratitude to my healthy body and everything else I own.

    Thank you for this reminder.

    • Indeed, Habib, being grateful for what we have is so important. And clever thinking to order the books from the library. After all, we don’t have to own a book to be able to enjoy it. 🙂

  2. It is interesting to see how judgmental people can be. When they told people that they were homeless they were treated horribly and when they said that they had sold their house and were taking a year off, people said how inspiring they were. I hope those people read her book and start thinking about themselves and their actions.
    It sounds like an interesting book, I think I would be interested in reading both of them. The titles are also great, they sound inspiring.
    I have never heard of CBD disease. I once knew a person who also had a degenerative disease that is hardly known, and when he got it it was the first time I heard of it. By the time he passed away (he was only in his early forties) he was skin over bones … it was a terrible disease … there are so many diseases we still don’t know of …

    • It is something she writes about as well, Christine. She was nervous to speak in public. What if people in the audience were the ones that had treated her so badly? We as outsiders can say ‘well, you’re a better person than they are and you have grown so much’. But she could still feel the humiliation and the pain.

      I admire her in so many ways. It is so inspiring and motivating to read about her thoughts and the things so has done. And on top of that, she has a lot of (British) humor.

      No, I had neither heard of CBD before. Maybe it is just as well we don’t know everything that can go wrong. Life would be so full of worries, and you know what they say: “People suffer the most by the suffering they fear”.

  3. Wow, Hannie! This is really a capturing post for me. I would love to read it too. You did a great job bringing this book to life in this article. I think I will know more and read their story. They don’t give up, and that is the important thing you can do. But of course, it is not easy! I admire her for the woman and buddy she is. Beautiful woman! And I would love to read more of them. You bring the story of their life in such a capturing way; I need to read that book. Thank you so much, Hannie! If we would be homeless, what an experience! I can’t imagine.

    • Thanks, Sylvia, I am so pleased to hear that I have been able to describe the atmosphere of the book well. So far, she has only written those 2 books. Which I regard as a pity too, because I truly loved to read them. The good news is she is writing her third. So hopefully next year there is another pearl to be enjoyed. 🙂

  4. Good evening Hannie,

    Reading your description of these two books, I know it will be very emotional to read them.
    I will not tell you my life story, but I can assure you I feel for this couple. It needs courage to do what they did. It shows that life is full of surprises, and the saying every cloud has a silver lining is true.

    Regards, Taetske

    • Thanks Taetske. That is why the books were so gripping. Not only by the style of writing, which is excellent, but also because of the constant admiration you must muster for so much courage and so much endured suffering and humiliation. Being knocked down, sometimes literally, and than standing up again.

  5. Wow!
    I’m not amazed anymore by how awesome people are, because in some ways I expect it!
    We face challenges to bring out the best in us, and that certainly seems to be what happened with Raynor and Moth. These sound like very interesting and inspirational books for sure.

    Unfortunately, I’m also not surprised by how some people can still be so disconnected from their hearts.
    We all know that the laws are designed to protect commerce above people, but i’m still blown away to know that people accept this as ‘normal’ and can allow someone to be removed from their home and made homeless.

    What has happened to us as a species that we value pieces of paper with numbers and signatures on more that we value each other?????

    And the second book serves to further illustrate this point….. We abuse nature (the very source of our lives) for short term profits instead of thinking about the world we will be leaving to future generations.
    The problem is we are being taught to get a job, make money, and consume, consume and consume more.

    I sincerely hope that OUR STORY has a happy ending…….

    • Exactly, Andrew. The part about their lawsuit is heartbreaking. First of all because they were cheated and treated really badly by a friend. Someone they trusted. And then to have the proof in their hands they were not liable but being refused to hand that over because of a technicality – that was plain awful.

      At times I get frustrated by the way that even now, despite the virus, people keep on poisoning everything. Over here in the rural agricultural area of Murcia, the soil is totally dead of all the pesticides and herbicides. The bats and birds were coming back since the first lockdown because there were less lights and less noise. Nevertheless, the neighbors deemed it necessary to poison the trees in order to kill the maybe present procession caterpillar. Not open to our argument that the birds and bats would take care of that if they were actually there. And in the meantime posioning our kitchen garden as well.

      I really had a hard time gripping myself together again and telling myself I could only go on living the example and hope that eventually I will be the start of the inkspot of sustainability that will flow over the area. 🙂

  6. Hi Hannie,

    Thanks for sharing Raynor’s two books about homelessness, illness, and the most important, their courage to do such a long walk to fight together. Sadly, Moth has no happy ending, but their stories made me think what the important things I should cherish if I need to face the same situation as Raynor did.


    • Hi Matt, I think already living 5 more years than the doctors predicted can’t be called ‘not a happy ending’. Of course everyone would want the magical solution of Moth’s illness, but as long as there is no magic wand, this suffices as a good second best, in my opinion.


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