by Edith Cody-Rice
If you love Algonquin Park, as I do, you will be intrigued by this book. It is substantial, at 304 pages (not counting acknowledgments) and is essentially a memoir of a woman coming to maturity aided by her spiritual advisor and the wilderness that is Algonquin Park. The full title of the book is Tumblehome: One Woman’s Canoeing Adventures in the Divine Near Wilderness.
Ms. Missen takes us through several years of her life in her late thirties and early forties as she shed some of the legacies of a deeply Christian childhood and the assumptions of main stream society about relationships between women and men. With the help of adventurous canoeing in the Park and her spiritual advisor and friend Asante, she comes to terms with her feelings of guilt, unworthiness and rejection, instilled in her by the Anglican church of her youth and the myth young women are taught that their lives will be completed by a man. The diary is intimate and astonishingly revealing about her relationships with two important men in her life and to a large degree, it is the landscape of the Canadian Shield where she finds her spiritual home and healing.
It is also an adventure story. I was particularly attracted to her canoeing exploits as the best two summers of my life were spent as a young nurse at a boys’ camp on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park. The wilderness of it, even in mid Ontario, astonishes Europeans (not too mention me) who can see in it the vastness of Canada and its untouched forests. Although Algonquin is quite civilized in parts and made amenable to camping, the immensity of it with all of its trees, plants and wild life inspires awe and frequently peace.
Ms. Missen is an expert canoeist and camper and has canoed many lakes in the Park solo: a braver woman than I, I can assure you. But while frightened from time to time, especially of bears who raid unprotected food caches, she found her camping time calmed and healed her and helped her come to terms with her life, her life’s work and her fate. So much so that she purchased an isolated home on the Canadian Shield which cemented her sense of belonging and her own connection to the divinity of nature.
I should say that the target audience for this book is women, especially younger women, by which I mean women up to the age of forty or so, who can empathize with the relationships and struggles that Ms. Missen so ably relates. The title has a specific meaning which I shall leave to the reader to discover. She is a good writer and if you like this book, it will completely immerse you. A good read for the summer months when we in Canada think of going to the cottage or “up north”, although frequently up north is barely out of southern Ontario.
Published by Inanna