Fraser (The Territory of Men, 2002) soulfully evokes the year she spent in an isolated forest retreat recovering from the trauma of divorce and exploring the inner landscape of her heart.
When the author divorced her husband, the emotional fallout left her devastated. Not only was she unprepared for how joint custody would redefine her relationship to her young son Dylan, but she was also unprepared for the wave of "crippling guilt of being the one who left.” To maintain her privacy in the conservative California mountain town where they lived and ensure Dylan had access to his father, Fraser quietly moved into a tiny, one-bedroom house on the edge of a nearby forest. In this lonely but beautiful setting, Fraser began to examine her life. She thought about her Swedish great-grandmother, who was forced to leave her six children behind and follow a fugitive husband to America, where the two divorced. She eventually reunited with some of her children, but for the rest of her life, she worked "like a slave" in a land far from home. From this extraordinary woman, Fraser came to understand that survival meant "setting a course" for herself and making peace with her choices. She accepted the financial challenges of being a single parent with a low-paying job and found renewed joy in the companionship of her dog and cats. As she learned to appreciate the natural world around her, Fraser came to value both her freedom and the pain that had come along with it. Her injuries, like those done to the great scarred trees around her, were actually a testament to the hidden beauty of life itself—and to the choice to either live in fear or "look for [the] gifts" in every experience, no matter how painful.
A poignant study of gratitude for the simple life.