Twelve months of natural splendor on Vancouver Island’s eastern coast.
The stretch of wetlands where novelist and former collegiate professor Szanto (Never Hug a Mugger on Quadra Island, 2011, etc.) has spent the past decade is located on Gabriola, a British Columbian island the size and shape of Manhattan but with only 4,000 residents. From September to August, Szanto offers a lushly rendered, one-year pastoral chronicle of life in and around a marshland bog as observed by a seasoned writer who is both enamored and emotionally buoyed by it. Amid descriptions of the bog’s natural beauty and delicate ecology, the author also incorporates personal anecdotes of random eyesight maladies, baking homemade bread, the hoarfrost in winter and salmon fishing in summer. More momentous events follow, such as surviving the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, his courtship of his wife and the deaths of his parents, whose escape from Nazi-occupied Vienna is described in gripping detail. Even richer moments include a touching midwinter dinner gathering with friends who’d all survived life-threatening illnesses. But it’s the vibrant, abundant bog just outside his windows that takes center stage as the author delightfully surveys iridescent dragonflies, raccoons and countless bird species. Though the hazards of country living are numerous, they only seem to bring out the author’s indefatigable temperament. After a nasty hornet sting that nearly killed him, Szanto resolved to keep the extinguished nest, situated above his front door, “as a war memorial.”
An earthy, homespun and voyeuristically satisfying book.