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A Short Walk Through a Wide World by Douglas Westerbeke
Magical realism

A Short Walk Through a Wide World


We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Douglas Westerbeke, on your first book!

by Douglas Westerbeke

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Quick take

Plagued by a mysterious condition, a young woman embarks on a globetrotting journey of self-discovery and adventure.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_International


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_BookAboutBooks

    Book about books


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.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of A Short Walk Through a Wide World.
A Short Walk Through a Wide World


A Marketplace

The paper is clean and white—she hasn’t drawn her first line—so when the drop of blood falls and makes its little red mark on the page, she freezes. Her pencil hovers in her hand. Her heart, like it always does, gives her chest an extra kick. She drops the pencil. Hand, like a reflex, goes to her nose. She feels the wetness creeping through her sinuses, tastes the brine in the back of her throat. It’s a trickle now, no more than a nosebleed, but in moments it will be much worse—and here, of all places, just as she’d sat down.

It’s too soon. It’s bad luck. She’d hoped to sleep in a real bed tonight, not hammocks or hard ground, and in the morning have a bath, a proper bath in warm water, with soap. She’d hoped to add more entries to her book, like tinder or flint or paper—but how to draw a piece of paper on a piece of paper so that others will look at it and say, “Oh, I see. A piece of paper.”

She’d hoped to try the food. Look at this market—taro preserves, steamed crab claws, curried prawns wrapped in sheets of bean curd. No, this will have to wait, too, for another time and another market. The list of things she won’t do is even longer than that—what list isn’t?—but there’s no time to dwell. The bath can wait. She’ll find a bed somewhere else. The list is gone. Now is the time to get the hell out.

But the marketplace is alive, the people friendly, and the river right there, a shiny tearstain through the green, clogged with colorful skiffs and fishing boats that can whisk her away, no effort at all. This is Siam, a watery part of the world, all jungle, seasons measured by rainfall. She knew as soon as she set foot here that rivers would be her mode of escape.

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Why I love it

It is always exciting to discover a compelling new voice in fiction. Even more exciting is when that voice tells you a tale unlike any you’ve ever read. Douglas Westerbeke has done just that in his debut novel, A Short Walk Through a Wide World.

Nine-year-old Aubry Tourvel is living with her family in 1885 Paris when she unexpectedly starts bleeding at the dinner table. Attempted medical remedies only make her condition worse. She quickly realizes that the only way to survive is to keep moving. Every few days, she must travel to somewhere new, and she cannot revisit a place where she has already been. Spanning decades, the reader follows Aubry as she traverses the globe, meeting new friends and lovers, royals and beggars, the curious and the helpful on her grand adventure. Aubry is an extraordinary protagonist, but those she meets along the way are also compelling—and how she connects to people of different cultural backgrounds and timelines helps her grow and come to know herself and the world around her.

For anyone who wants to live fearlessly in our ever-changing world, this book will inspire you. It is imaginative and thought-provoking, and it will stay with you long after you’ve finished it. Happy Wandering.

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Member ratings (648)

  • Savannah K.

    Baton Rouge, LA

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️best book I’ve read this year and I will absolutely be reading again! Magical, beautiful prose and I absolutely love Aubry. The premise has the perfect balance of heartbreaking and beautiful

  • Nick S.

    Kansas City, MO

    🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 I’m going to have to comb back through this book and annotate to derive more meaning from it. There’s wisdom in the pages that slipped through in an enchanting first read. Amazing adventure

  • Kimberly D.

    Williamsville, NY

    What a fascinating book! Aubry’s journey was a deep portrayal of “it is the journey, not the destination.” Makes you appreciate each experience in life and value what you have in the present moment.

  • Addie D.

    Thomaston, CT

    Pleasantly surprised & fascinated by this. Aubrey’s “sickness” was well executed & the reader comes to just accept it. The writing jumped around a bit but I was engrossed in all Aubrey’s travels.

  • Paula H.

    Hinesburg, VT

    Not to be missed! This book had me in all the feels, seriously. That ending, I did not see that coming, but what a why to end this topsy turvy storyline. What a creative way to talk about the unknown.

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