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A Walk with the Rainy Sisters: In Praise of British Columbia’s Places

By Stephen Hume

Review By Howard Stewart

November 4, 2013

BC Studies no. 174 Summer 2012  | p. 131-2

Following in the footsteps of Roderick Haig Brown’s Measure of the Year, Stephen Hume has chosen to tell many tales, some celebratory and some cautionary, to the rhythm of a passing year. Like Grant Lawrence’s recent Adventures in Solitude, this is another unabashed love story. Hume’s ongoing affair is mostly with the south coast of BC and a few more distant places. The affair has been long and eventful; the book contemplates both the good and the bad of it. Along the way, Hume reminds himself and us not to take for granted those things we hold dear. Some of his precious, fragile icons — our children, long sweet spring times, dragon flies, steelhead trout — will convince just about everybody. Others, like the joys of the Wet Coast’s rain, may be a harder sell. Some readers could also trip over the contradiction of this avowedly devout nature lover driving an SUV. Others will be irked by his geography: Hume embraces all BC but mostly he talks about the south coast and even then, more often than not, just the far southern Gulf Islands, wherein “Saturna …[is the] outermost of all Canada’s Gulf Islands” (29). I wonder how he would describe Lasqueti then?

Hume asks us to “take ownership of the hurtful side of our past” (28) – surely a valuable admonition and one that he has certainly followed in his columns with the Vancouver Sun. Yet in Walk with the Rainy Sisters Hume mostly depicts First Nations people, for example, who occupy either the past or distant places. These damaged peoples, who have surely felt the sting of our “hurtful side” more than most, have somehow disappeared from the earthly paradise of BC’s south coast.

On many issues, Hume scores perfectly, like the transformations that come upon west coast urbanites in summer or the fact that each of the many islands of the strait, from the US border to Discovery Passage, has its “own mood, ecology and culture.” It’s a shame he didn’t dwell a bit longer on the less travelled ones, like Texada, Cortes, or Lasqueti islands, with their unique and powerful personas, so different from the southern islands. He missed a chance to compare our summer seasons of modern “transhumance” with the traditional annual movements of people on this coast, between their winter and summer homes, every year over untold centuries. Finally, it was frustrating to be introduced to a woman like Melda Buchanan then be told so little about this fascinating character or her work.

All this is to say, of course, that Hume has not written the book that I would have written; but he’s still written a good summer read for those of us who share his love of the place and his concerns about its future.

A Walk with the Rainy Sisters: In Praise of British Columbia’s Places
by Stephen Hume
Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2010