Friday, April 12, 2024

Review: A Short Walk Through A Wide World by Douglas Westerbeke


A Short Walk Through A Wide World by Douglas Westerbeke
Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2024
Hardcover. 400 pages.

About A Short Walk Through A Wide World:

"Paris, 1885: Aubry Tourvel, a spoiled and stubborn nine-year-old girl, comes across a wooden puzzle ball on her walk home from school. She tosses it over the fence, only to find it in her backpack that evening. Days later, at the family dinner table, she starts to bleed to death.

When medical treatment only makes her worse, she flees to the outskirts of the city, where she realizes that it is this very act of movement that keeps her alive. So begins her lifelong journey on the run from her condition, which won’t allow her to stay anywhere for longer than a few days nor return to a place where she’s already been.

From the scorched dunes of the Calashino Sand Sea to the snow-packed peaks of the Himalayas; from a bottomless well in a Parisian courtyard, to the shelves of an infinite underground library, we follow Aubry as she learns what it takes to survive and ultimately, to truly live. But the longer Aubry wanders and the more desperate she is to share her life with others, the clearer it becomes that the world she travels through may not be quite the same as everyone else’s...

Fiercely independent and hopeful, yet full of longing, Aubry Tourvel is an unforgettable character fighting her way through a world of wonders to find a place she can call home. A spellbinding and inspiring story about discovering meaning in a life that seems otherwise impossible, A Short Walk Through a Wide World reminds us that it’s not the destination, but rather the journey—no matter how long it lasts—that makes us who we are."

A Short Walk Through a Wide World follows Aubry Tourvel who suffers from a mysterious curse that compels her to constantly be on the move from one place to another. If she revisits or stays in one place for more than a couple days, she begins to suffer severe physical symptoms that could likely kill, but as soon as she starts moving on to another place all of her symptoms disappear. As a result of this curse, Aubry becomes a bit of an involuntary world traveller and wanderer. I completely understand this book’s comparisons to The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, but I actually ended up liking this much more and found it to have a much more captivating narrative.

Aubry is a compelling protagonist whose resilience really drives her to keep moving along in her life in hopes of either outrunning her course or possibly even finding a cure. I liked her independence and the way she seemed to build up her confidence from the time her short childhood ended and she was thrust into survival mode. She’s a woman who is forced to live a very lonely existence despite technically interacting with plenty of people throughout her travels, and this has clearly influenced her personality as someone who is generally cautious around others, but still adventurous and willing to take some chances. I know there is often some concern for male authors writing female main characters, but I really think Westerbeke did a great job with Aubry’s characterization and development of her personality.

I very much enjoyed meeting Aubry and observing how she made her way through this world where she is left generally without a home or direct purpose. There are many moments in which Aubry is left to consider the meaning and/or purpose to her life, and I enjoyed these more philosophical thoughts about our own existence in this world. Although most of us are not cursed to constantly move from place to place, I think most of us can relate to those questions of purpose, belonging, and general uncertainty about whether there is more to life or not at times.

Westerbeke’s writing style is elegant and beautifully written. His narrative style was very thoughtful and flowed effortlessly. I will note that there seemed to be a lot of what people would call “telling instead of showing,” and I felt that we as readers were merely being told about a lot of things that had occurred in Aubry’s life in a very passive way rather than as if we were actually there with the action. This is because a lot of Aubry’s story is told as a result of her telling others about it, rather than us experiencing it in realtime with Aubry. I didn’t personally mind this too much and actually felt as though it added to the general atmosphere and worked well with the story’s style, but I can see where this could bother people who don’t enjoy this style as much.

This book does go in some odd directions and I’m still not sure how I feel about some of the choices made by the author, but nonetheless it still made for a very interesting story that kept me turning the pages. It’s one of those where you can sort of tell it’s a debut, but it’s a fantastic debut. I think I wish we had gotten a slightly longer or more in-depth dive into her backstory or a better understand of why she seems to accept and understand the curse so quickly, as some of the reactions felt a little off, but I can tell that this is more of an atmospheric story that relies on a bit of mystery and intrigue. You aren’t really supposed to know solid answers to a lot of things and you’re supposed to enjoy the ride and immerse yourself in the writing. It’s a beautiful story and one that could easily sit with someone long after finishing.

Overall, I’ve given A Short Walk Through A Wide World four stars! I look forward to seeing more from Douglas Westerbeke and would gladly read more of his work.

*I received a copy of A Short Walk Through A Wide World in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

1 comment:

  1. I love your review for this book. Its on my tbr list and you make me want to run out to the store and buy it right now.