Safe Haven - The Possibility of Sanctuary in an Unsafe World by Larry Gaudet
"A seaside village in southeastern Nova Scotia along the North Atlantic coast, Foggy Cove is often shrouded in the ambiguous conditions of coastal fog, the mythic substance of ghosts, the inspiration for a thousand cliches on the human tendency to orient toward inward horizons when there is nowhere else to gaze." (p4)
“Forgive the assumptions I’m about to make. I’m sure they say much more about me than you. You have a dream of sanctuary too” (p21).
I enjoy reading nonfiction with all the insights and musings that authors share with their readers. I want to know what other people think about; how they perceive the world; how their memories and experiences affect their present lives. And if the subject happens to be something that has been simmering in the recesses of my own mind then I am enthralled and must read on. Sanctuary. Who can say they don’t have a quiet yearning for refuge and safety? I believe it is hardwired in us from birth but it takes on different meanings and urgencies for each individual. This was what I was hoping to explore in reading this book.
The setting is enchanting with its ocean-side cliffs and deserted beaches. Gaudet invites the reader to join him in his quest for sanctuary at his Nova Scotia house by the sea, a place he built for himself and his family as respite from the pressures and distractions of urban living. He spent a year there in the relative solitude of a small coastal community with his wife and two young sons writing about his own search for the meaning of sanctuary. He writes with a mix of journal entries, travelogue, fictional characters, history, and mythology to tell his story. I found this to be intriguing at first but in reality was somewhat disorienting. The middle of the book is written as if in a novel with a third person narration where he introduces a fictional character to explain the history of the Greek ruins and other historical cultures. I was hoping for a more fluid connection, perhaps allowing the reader to stay with the author while he did the research; I wanted him to share his thoughts directly and not through the mind of some fictional character.
Safe Haven raises some interesting questions and observations that spoke to me in such a way that I found myself reaching for a pencil to underline them. It was a thought provoking read, the kind I’d like to discuss with friends over a glass of wine.
" I'm in love with mystery itself, the idea that within everything and everyone there are hidden meanings and conflicting meanings, too, and things that just never add up, no matter how many clues to the puzzle you have."(p3)
" . . . it never occurred to me that what we all may need sometimes is sanctuary from who we've become" (p18)
" Ideally, sanctuary viewed as a wisdom-seeking journey should involve a means of submerging in or gravitating to an experience (place, idea, situation) and then emerging wiser in order to engage the "power to serve others". That's a lovely idea, a justification for the endurance of sanctuary as a concept in human relations." (p266)
~ from Safe Haven by Larry Gaudet Copyright © 2007 by Larry Gaudet. With permission of Vintage Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved.