cover image Windswept: Walking the Paths of Trailblazing Women

Windswept: Walking the Paths of Trailblazing Women

Annabel Abbs. Tin House, $26.95 (392p) ISBN 978-1-951-14270-4

British novelist Abbs (The Joyce Girl) finds power in the mundane act of walking in this beautiful and meditative memoir. After a severe head injury temporarily left Abbs unable to walk, she vowed never to take that ability for granted again. Once she was cleared to walk, she set out to retrace the footsteps of notable women who “walked for inspiration, consolation, and liberation,” but whose travels curiously weren’t recognized like the ones of their “famous male counterparts.” She followed Georgia O’Keefe’s steps through New Mexico and Texas; Welsh painter Gwen John’s amblings along the River Garonne in France; Simone de Beauvoir’s hikes in rural France; and “lifelong walker” Daphne du Maurier’s rambles along the River Rhône. As she reveled in the beauty of nature and considered each woman’s story, Abbs took a deep dive into her own psyche, coming to terms with her unusual upbringing in the Welsh countryside and her identity, which she contemplates in lyrical prose (“a self is not a thing, but a becoming”). By her trek’s end, she realized “my journey in their footsteps was also an attempt to walk and write myself free.” This lush narrative serves as the perfect excuse to get moving. Agent: Stuart Krichevsky, SK Agency. (Sept.)