The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue meets Life of Pi in this dazzlingly epic debut that charts the incredible, adventurous life of one woman as she journeys the globe trying to outrun a mysterious curse that will destroy her if she stops moving.
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.
About the Author
Douglas Westerbeke is a librarian who lives in Ohio and works at one of the largest libraries in the US. He has spent the last decade on the local panel of the International Dublin Literary Award, which inspired him to write his own book.
“Part magical realism–laced travelogue, part love letter to the world, Westerbeke’s extraordinary debut spans decades . . . Striking set pieces, stunning character work, and evocative, insightful prose make every page worth savoring. A hopeful tale of improbable friendships, whirlwind romances, and unexpected joy.” —Kirkus Review (*starred* review)
"Librarian Westerbeke combines elements of Vernian adventure and Borgesian fantasy in his enthralling debut about a woman who must travel constantly in order to survive. . . Capturing each moment of Aubry’s sweeping odyssey with extraordinary vividness, Westerbeke’s poignant epic speaks to the challenges of knowing oneself and others in a world of endless change. This is unforgettable.” —Publisher's Weekly (*starred* review)
"Readers of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab and Life of Pi by Yann Martel will fall in love with Aubry. Librarian Westerbeke’s debut is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys armchair travel and stories that open wide to embrace every experience, even the sad ones." —Library Journal (*starred* review)
“A wild romping adventure, a poignant tale of relationships and interconnectedness, and a compelling journey of self-discovery. A Short Walk Through a Wide World is utterly engrossing, a world—worlds—to get lost in. . . every reader will find something to love.” —Shelf Awareness
"A shining story. . . with exciting twists and prose that feels like legend, this is an essential read for anyone looking to renew their lust for life. Perfect for fans of Matt Haig and V.E. Schwab." —Barnes & Noble, “Most Anticipated Debut Novels of 2024”
“An incredible, dazzling debut. . . I’ve never read anything like it.” —Thoughts From a Page podcast
“A Short Walk Through a Wide World is a gorgeous ode to wanderlust. When Aubry Tourvel embarks on an eternal trip, trying to outrun a mysterious affliction, she quickly learns to defend herself. But while her spear’s aim is deadly, curiosity and compassion slay harder. Douglas Westerbeke's dazzling debut takes readers on a thought-provoking journey through cultures and timelines… and also, through a mysterious cave-bound library. I savored every page of this book!” —SHELBY VAN PELT, New York Times bestselling author of Remarkably Bright Creatures
“A Short Walk Through a Wide World is the rare book that immediately becomes a dear friend. Westerbeke has written a beautiful ode to wanderlust, the intrepid spirit, and the changing planet. Aubry Tourvel perfectly embodies the twin desires for exploration and rootedness in a way that makes readers long to walk with her. This is a novel that asks what it is to love the world, and what it is for the world to love us. A grand adventure that begs to be revisited again and again.” —ERIKA SWYLER, author of The Book of Speculation and Light From Other Stars