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Seven Ravens: Two Summers in a Life by the Sea

by Lesley Choyce

Lesley Choyce, the prolific Nova Scotia author and publisher of Pottersfield Press, offers a meditation on life that focuses on the natural landscape around his home – a meditation prompted by an unidentified personal crisis. Choyce assesses his life with an appealing candour; Seven Ravens is an act of therapeutic writing, but it is not the least bit self-pitying.

Choyce embarks on a journey of self-understanding by looking carefully at what’s around him – in particular, his beloved Nova Scotia home “on the edge of a ragged spruce forest, a stone’s throw from the sea.” Choyce uses ravens as touchstones to guide him along the way. He decides to hike north from his house until he has passed seven ravens, and then return home.

While such a premise could easily become self-indulgent, Choyce’s gentle introspection ultimately saves the day. He writes about wanting to be a shaman or an alchemist, but his true goal is to comprehend his place in the world. The New Age flakiness is overcome by the emotional authenticity of the human quest.

Choyce is acutely observant and thoughtful. He describes his garden, animals he and his daughters save, surfing, hiking, books he reads, and places he visits, all with a respect for readers and the time they are investing in his book. He knows he has a good life, and he strives to feel the goodness through the bleakness of depression.

For Choyce, recovery is found in the natural world, which is infinitely beautiful but also dangerous. For example, Choyce recalls a tragedy in his past when he tried to save a woman from drowning, but failed – an event that had a huge impact on his life. Choyce’s writing reveals an engagement with both the physical world and the literary one. It is a privilege to be invited on a journey with such an inquisitive and sensitive mind.