Doggedly inspired, Emma John misses nothing as she weathers brief highs and devastating lows. A belated epiphany in a barn ultimately leads to her appearance as a finalist at the Happy Valley Festival. More than a memoir, Wayfaring Stranger is a valuable contribution to musicology and an informative tribute to a musical culture.
There is a touch of Bill Bryson to her escapades. She is the well-meaning outsider stumbling through unfamiliar surroundings and slowly learning how not to make a faux pas. She knows how to tell a good joke, and how to laugh at herself. The pratfalls are artfully choreographed. 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.