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Review

Adventures in Solitude: What Not to Wear to a Nude Potluck and other stories from Desolation Sound

By Grant Lawrence

November 4, 2013

Review By Howard Stewart

This is a book of stories, mostly frothy, engaging, and well told.  It’s also a sort of not-quite postmodern coming-of-age tale that is much enhanced by Grant Lawrence’s mixing of his own stories with those of the place. It’s a little like a late 20th century version of M. Wylie Blanchet’s Curve of Time (1961), if that had been written by one of the kids. Lawrence apparently set out to declare his love of this special place and its special people through their stories and he has succeeded. Like all good love stories it is not without struggle. Lawrence makes us understand that he started out an awkward city child, hard-pressed to even make the road journey to Okeover Arm, let alone face the rigours of life on the still dark water of Desolation Sound itself. This was his father’s dream, not his. Unlike many of the love stories about BC and its magic waters over the years, the real estate developer in Lawrence’s story (his father) is a hero of sorts, making things happen for people against daunting odds. But otherwise, most of the story is familiar. The Salish-speaking ghosts are mentioned in passing but seem to have no role on the sound of today. The extraordinary and eccentric settlers who replaced them live their tales of struggle, hardship and occasionally madness in a place that is only a playground for a handful of warm months and a dark, brooding place of intense isolation through the long rainy season. Lawrence’s most important stories, though, tell of the next wave of inhabitants — the quirky refugees from the outside world who replaced the original white settlers and were there to witness the arrival of the real estate developer’s family. The author makes no bones about his respect and love for his father — a reassurance to all fathers of grown sons. But the teacher and spiritual guide who will help Lawrence become one with the sound — in the summer at least — is a hippie philosopher named Russell who walked across the Coast Mountains to get there and then stayed.

Lawrence weaves himself through the stories, growing up, learning to overcome his fear of things like cougars and replace it with healthy fears of things like fire and forest grow-ops.  We watch his mentors and other denizens of the place get old even as he becomes the one to rush out naked to greet awkward new arrivals, much as he was once greeted. The story ends happily with the author, now fully of this place — in summer at least — finally able to share it with a love partner. Knowing the ending won’t spoil the book; you’ll enjoy each step along the way. If you’re looking for a history of the Sound in the resettlement era then read Heather Harbord’s Desolation Sound – A History (Harbour: 2007). But if you want to get a feel for the place it has become today – for those of us who mostly go to these places in the bright months – you could do a lot worse than Grant Lawrence’s Adventures in Solitude.

Adventures in Solitude: What Not to Wear to a Nude Potluck and other stories from Desolation Sound
by Grant Lawrence
Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2010