Larry Gaudet’s Safe Haven, a rambling treatise about searching for places of refuge from a hectic society, is too long by at least half. Gaudet, the author of the novels Media Therapy and The Peacekeeper’s Teahouse, just doesn’t have the content or the writing style to sustain interest in his shaky thesis throughout nearly 300 pages. There’s some interesting material here – particularly in the last chapter, when Gaudet finally defines his terms and poses some solid questions about how to find sanctuary – but the message is lost in his self-indulgent rambling about everything from fog to back spasms.
In 2004, the author uprooted his Toronto-based family to move into his dream cottage near Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, for a year. In exhaustive detail, the author chronicles the pleasures and pains of his self-conscious
effort to find a place for peace. Gaudet links the cottage experiences to a purposeless third-person re-imagining of his Greek honeymoon, which is interspersed with presumably fake journal entries from a semi-mysterious new acquaintance. In addition, there are attempts to tie in a train trip to Churchill, Manitoba, as well as musings about his family and his Acadian ancestry. All of it utterly fails to hang together.
One might think, from the way Gaudet goes on, that he’s the only man ever to have looked for an escape from the hectic pace of modern society. He’s not, of course, as he himself freely admits, and that’s the most frustrating part about this book: Gaudet is able to identify his tendency toward excessive navelgazing, but he just can’t stop. After casting himself as a kind of Gatsby figure in his rural sanctuary, Gaudet remarks, “Lord Almighty, I do have my melodramatic moments….” He’s right, and his unwillingness to curb that habit is too tiresome to make this trip worth taking.