Adventures in Solitude by Grant LawrenceGrant Lawrence recounts his childhood memories and family’s history at their Cabin in Desolation Sound. Mixed in are historical accounts from Captain George Vancouver, who gave the area its name, and tales of adventure and tragedy of the pioneers and European settlers to the area.

Entertaining, witty, and revealing, Grant is able to reflect on his own personal experiences as well as his reaction to others’. Part memoir, part autobiography, and part storytelling, Adventures in Solitude: What Not to Wear to a Nude Potluck and Other Stories mixes the Lawrence family’s story with stories of the area, showing that you cannot divorce people and place. It was interesting to read Grant’s personal commentary on his past interactions within his family and the judgment he passes on his childhood and teenage self. Having met Grant Lawrence through work with the BC Book Prizes, I could almost hear his voice as I read the roughly chronological short stories.

From Captain George Vancouver to Muriel “Curve of Time” Blanchet to Jim “Spilsbury’s Coast” Spilsbury, visitors to Desolation Sound have left behind a trail of books endowing the area with a romantic aura that helps to make it British Columbia’s most popular marine park. In this hilarious and captivating book, CBC personality Grant Lawrence adds a whole new chapter to the saga of this storied piece of BC coastline.

Young Grant’s father bought a piece of land next to the park in the 1970s, just in time to encounter the gun-toting cougar lady, left-over hippies, outlaw bikers and an assortment of other characters. In those years Desolation Sound was a place where going to the neighbours’ potluck meant being met with hugs from portly naked hippies and where Russell the Hermit’s school of life (boating, fishing, and rock ’n’ roll) was Grant’s personal Enlightenment—an influence that would take him away from the coast to a life of music and journalism and eventually back again.

With rock band buddies and a few cases of beer in tow, an older, cooler Grant returns to regale us with tales of “going bush,” the tempting dilemma of finding an unguarded grow-op, and his awkward struggle to convince a couple of visiting kayakers that he’s a legit CBC radio host while sporting a wild beard and body wounds and gesticulating with a machete. With plenty of laugh-out-loud humour and inspired reverence, Adventures in Solitude delights us with the unique history of a place and the growth of a young man amidst the magic of Desolation Sound.

From the publisher, Harbour Publishing

However, as I often feel with memoir-type writings, having such a privileged omniscient point of view into the lives of others made me hesitate. While I’m sure that Grant received permission from all the people he included in the book, part of me took on the embarrassment that each of those people may face to have bits of their lives put down in writing for others to see. If it was me, I would be reluctant to allow someone to include me in a book, especially if they were recounting their side of a ‘humourous’ story.

Reading 'Adventures in Solitude' by kerosene lamplight on Savary Island

Reading ‘Adventures in Solitude’ by kerosene lamplight on Savary Island

I read Adventures in Solitude while on vacation with my family on Savary Island, which I felt was a fitting time and place to read the stories. Reading about Grant’s childhood struggle with the curvy road to Earl Cove on the Sunshine Coast was immediately relatable. Although I was fortunate that my dad let me drive that stretch of road so I wasn’t carsick.

I found the judgement that Grant passed on Savary Island folks to be ironic— the ‘priviledged, rich Vancouver families’ and the “Daddy plane” which brought the dads back to the island for the weekend. The Lawrence family is from West Vancouver, own a cabin in the area, and a boat too (although Grant maintained no illusions about the quality of their boat or the rusticness of their cabin). Having only been on Savary Island for a week, I didn’t really encounter anything like that, but then again, things have changed since Grant was a kid in the Sound, including tourism, real estate, accessibility, and attitudes too.