Something tells me that Grant Lawrence’s Adventures in Solitude (Harbour) isn’t going to spur the same kind of Oprah-induced travel frenzy as Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2010 book club phenomenon, but with all the quirky stories, lovable characters and serene coastal landscapes found in Lawrence’s coming-of-age memoir, his book might just do for Desolation Sound, B.C., what Eat, Pray, Love did for India.
As a travel guide, Lawrence’s book does little to encourage a family vacation. Captain George Vancouver, when first laying eyes on Desolation Sound, called it “dreary and unpleasant,” a sentiment shared by Grant at age six, when his father first took the family there for a getaway. But the way that place, with its cast of kooky “shrubbies,” changed a bespectacled little city kid into a machete-wielding outdoorsman, had me longing for a set of childhood memories that were not my own. From Bernard the German to Handy Candy, a whole commune of eclectic elders were available from whom the impressionable young Lawrence could draw wisdom, homemade liquor and fishing secrets—a Canadian Neverland fantasy that I’d love to slip away to every summer.
If I thought for a second that it was possible, I would pack my car, head up the coast, board a series of ferries to carry me away from the mainland, then travel by tiny skiff through the choppy waters that nearly killed Vancouver’s crew and Lawrence’s sister, out to a cabin, where I would while away the quiet summer, free from the clutches of the big city. But the truth is, Desolation Sound will never be mine. It belongs to Lawrence, and to his father, who had the vision to stick with what Captain Vancouver was so quick to dismiss, and all the real hippies who have made it their home—not just another half-hearted city slicker like myself trying to escape the rat race.
So, every time I feel the weight of city life on my shoulders, I can pull Lawrence’s book down off the shelf and disappear quietly into someone else’s adventures in solitude.