I hate camping, but I loved this book. It is a cleverly structured hymn to the healing power of earth and animals, sky and water, solitude and stillness; a spiritual journey of the soul to the self; and a love story of a most unconventional sort. All in all, as memoir, travel guide, adventure, prayer, and love story, a very satisfying read.
—Jan Rehner, author of The House of Izieu and Almost True
As a woman, an author and a solo kayaker from the San Juan Islands of Washington State, I enjoyed Brenda Missen’s journey of body, mind and heart as she recounts it in Tumblehome. Over a period of seven years, we discover the depths of a woman’s love of the wild and her search for deeper meanings of all things human—love, lust, longing, trust, hope, wisdom and spirituality—as she bravely embarks on a number of solo canoe journeys on the myriad lakes of Canada’s vast Algonquin Provincial Park, her soul’s home. We learn of the abundant wildlife who share their home with her: the bear, turtle, raven, snake, moose and loon…all keenly observed and greatly revered by Brenda. Her beloved foundling canine sidekick also steals the heart! With strength, compassion and humility, she meets every challenge—from long paddling days and strenuous portages to lost love and childhood Christian indoctrination—and emerges as polished as a full moon and as wise as a sage!
—Irene Skyriver, author of Paddling with Spirits: A Solo Kayak Journey
Reading Tumblehome is like waking to the morning sun shining on your face through the sharp-pointed spruce on a mist-coated morning. It is like paddling along the shining path of a rising full moon. Most stories about solo canoeing are based on being ‘alone against the wilderness.’ They dwell on the anguish and risk of coping with whatever nature tosses, pushing physical limits to the extreme, and overcoming (most of the time) the dangers of paddling farther or faster or where no one has gone (and perhaps should not have gone) before. Brenda Missen’s memoir is not one of those. It is the story of a blossoming love affair with a landscape, the ‘near wilderness’ of Algonquin Park. Through a series of solo trips, Brenda’s journey shows the transformative power that travelling alone (especially a woman travelling alone) through the Canadian Shield can have on one’s mind and soul. It is pure joy to follow Brenda as she strays, and finds, her way through the wilderness and through life. And as you stray with Brenda, you will surely also find what she is seeking for on her journeys.
—Max Finkelstein, author of Canoeing a Continent: On the Trail of Alexander Mackenzie
Both amusing and moving, Tumblehome is an incredible memoir. Missen has spent many years canoeing and camping alone in Algonquin Park. Never having found her “one true paddling partner” Missen struggles to come to terms with both her singleness and her need for intimacy, all while striving to find inner peace and confronting very large bears. The beauty of the unspoiled park and her deep sense of contentment and joy when she has immersed herself in nature is infectious, and her beaming smiles shine from the pages as she recounts the loveliness of her surroundings. Missen’s encounters with a park ranger, other canoeists and a local real estate agent inject an element of tension into the narrative, as she shares the details of those relationships with true candour. We feel her confusion and pain as she reconciles some of the more difficult aspects of her interactions. Throughout her adventures, Missen focuses on ‘remembering to be’. Having left her Christian roots, she continues to seek spiritual truth and wholeness. Her brave and determined quest is inspiring, as is her exampled reliance on intuition. A wonderful story about female agency and an independent spirit. Highly recommended.
—Lucy E.M. Black, author of Stella’s Carpet. Check out Lucy’s interview with me on The Artisanal Writer