Thursday, July 7, 2011

Adventures in Solitude


- Grant Lawrence -

This book was funny! One of those rare books where the stories went from mental chuckles to laugh-out-loud (LOL) laughs. The few paragraphs about mullet clad Terry in his jean shorts (jorts), smoke in mouth, tubing behind the motor boat was so funny I reread the page four times, cracking up each time. The countless hilarious stories set a good natured tone throughout the book, but, there was so much more beyond the laughs. There was a much deeper story about Grant's life and the many changes he goes through. There is also a lot of history about the area (Desolation sound on the BC coast) expertly thrown in, used to enhance many of the stories Grant tells. There were also many touching parts where Grant removes his comedic facade and describes the natural beauty around him.

The book is centred around the the Lawrence family cabin. Grant's father, the outdoorsy type, buys a large tract of BC coastline with the intentions of developing it by building a bunch of cottages. The crazy part is that this land is located well beyond any road and is only accessible by boat. Saying it is remote is a bit of an understatement. Even with these formidable obstacles Grant's father manages to sell some cottages and build a cottage for the family as well. The first half of the book is a reaccount of Grant's childhood memories of the place. Grant was a self described 'nerd' without any interest in the outdoors. So, it is mostly made up of fish out of water stories as Grant encounters nature, the odd ball mountainmen, and hippies in the commune nearby. The first few trips up to the cabin are chock full of culture shock for Grant - which makes for great reading. At some points I found myself with the mixed feeling of laughing and pitying this poor 'nerd'. Luckily Grant makes it clear he is laughing at himself too as he looks back.

The book is divided into two parts. The second part is the adult life of Grant. In his young adult life Grant rebels against his family; stops going to the camp, tours the country with his rock band and lives the whole rocker lifestyle. For years he is absent from the cabin and Desolation Sound. After his band breaks up Grant finally concedes to a trip up to the Sound. This trip brings about a huge change, refilling Grant's soul and bringing him back to his roots (which he'd been trying to cut for years). Trips to the cabin became more frequent until he was pretty much living there for most of the year. It was inspiring to read Grant's remarks about the change the cabin was making on him. He went from cynical sounding ex-rocker to a self confident genuinely happy outdoorsman. This part two of the book accentuated his new found appreciation for the area and the lifestyle he had ridiculed for years. The stories in the second part change, focusing on the eccentric behaviours of the locals, the history of the area, and Grant's maturity. Strangely, I found the second part of this book better than the first; with much higher highs and lower lows. The stories had a different feel. They were just more raw. The funny parts were a bit cruder. The introspective parts laid it all out there and were borderline emotional.

The whole book ends wonderfully with Grant triumphing on life and all ending well.

Throughout the reading of the book I felt like I was actually on these journeys to the cabin. I'm not sure if it because of my own desire to own a remote cottage of my own. I'm betting, though, that it is mostly due to the fabulous writing of Grant Lawrence.


Another connection with recent books I've read. The early parts of this book Grant mentions reading Tin Tin books on the visits to the cabin. In Kitchen Confidential, Bourdain writes about reading Tin Tin books on his family vacations as well. I also recall Tin Tin books were my 'book' of choice for a few years in grade 3 or 4. Strange connection eh? Probably something all great writers do in their early years?

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