Review: The Wild Silence, by Raynor Winn
Title: The Wild Silence
Author: Raynor Winn
Publication Info: 2020, Michael Joseph. 280 pages.
Source: Library digital resources
Nature holds the answers for Raynor and her husband Moth. After walking 630 homeless miles along The Salt Path, living on the windswept and wild English coastline; the cliffs, the sky and the chalky earth now feel like their home.
Moth has a terminal diagnosis, but against all medical odds, he seems revitalized in nature. Together on the wild coastal path, with their feet firmly rooted outdoors, they discover that anything is possible.
Now, life beyond The Salt Path awaits and they come back to four walls, but the sense of home is illusive and returning to normality is proving difficult - until an incredible gesture by someone who reads their story changes everything.
A chance to breathe life back into a beautiful farmhouse nestled deep in the Cornish hills; rewilding the land and returning nature to its hedgerows becomes their saving grace and their new path to follow.
The Wild Silence is a story of hope triumphing over despair, of lifelong love prevailing over everything. It is a luminous account of the human spirit's instinctive connection to nature, and how vital it is for us all.
This is a follow-up to The Salt Path, which I reviewed a few weeks ago. I guess it says something about how the first book affected me that I went and nabbed the second one right away, and read it. When I looked back at that review, however, I found it a bit terse. I think I missed the point: Winn wasn't writing about loss and illness, but about the healing and transformative power of hiking. There's no missing that in this book. That's why I could immerse myself in the book instead of dodging it as I do most books about grief and loss.
In The Wild Silence, we take up where The Salt Path left off, and Moth begins his stubborn and perhaps quixotic effort to complete his university degree and get a teaching credential. The trouble is, as soon as they stop walking, his illness begins to take over. Spending his days at a computer or sitting in classrooms is, quite literally, killing him. Both body and mind are slipping down toward destruction. Winn's growing conviction that only by surrounding himself with nature can Moth survive leads them to take another leap of faith.
Restoring a farm to a healthy ecosystem stretches their physical and financial resources, but it seems to be the right choice. At the end of the book, we know that this isn't a cure, but it certainly seems to be a postponement of the inevitable, achieved by doing the opposite of what the doctor ordered: not by sitting quietly and "being careful on the stairs," but by working hard on the land and going for another incredibly demanding hike.
I have long known that hiking, surrounding oneself in nature, is spiritually healing. The author and her husband seem to have found an instance in which it is if anything even more physically healing.
I'm going to recommend that you read The Salt Path, and then read The Wild Silence. Definitely they have to be read in order, but I also just mean--read them. Then think about how we can save the wild places, because Thoreau was right: in wildness is the preservation of the world, and of each of us.
FTC Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of The Wild Silence from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."