A journey to the American South in search of friendship, life lessons and bluegrass.
Can you feel nostalgic for a life you've never known?
Suffused with her much-loved warmth and wit, Emma John's memoir follows her moving and memorable journey to master one of the hardest musical styles on earth - and to find her place in an alien world.
Emma had fallen out of love with her violin when a chance trip to the American South introduced her to bluegrass music. Classically trained, highly strung and wedded to London life, Emma was about as country as a gin martini. So why did it feel like a homecoming?
Answering that question takes Emma deep into the Appalachian mountains, where she uncovers a hidden culture that confounds every expectation - and learns some emotional truths of her own.
Wayfaring Stranger goes beyond being an entertaining, informative book about a niche musical genre: it becomes the story of John's personal mission to shake off a kind of existential stiffness - an inhibiting perfectionism - to rediscover not just her passion for music, but also for life ... Books like this work best when they manage to pull in even the most casual reader, saturating them in the colours, emotions and sensations of hidden subcultures, and John more than delivers. If someone doesn't make a film out of this, they'll have missed a "picking" trick - The Observer
There is a touch of Bill Bryson to her escapades. She is the well-meaning outsider stumbling through unfamiliar surroundings. She knows how to tell a good joke, and how to laugh at herself ... Early on, when she nervously takes her fiddle from its case and tries to join in with seasoned musicians, you know things will not go well, but she makes you smile at every wrong note ... [T]here are slivers of bluegrass history scattered in short, playful chapters. We get a page of excellent banjo jokes too - The Times
John chronicles in lively prose the setbacks, breakthroughs and devilish difficulties encountered ... More than a memoir, Wayfaring Stranger is a valuable contribution to musicology and an informative tribute to a musical culture ... an excellent Bluegrass primer - Times Literary Supplement