cover image In Praise of Retreat: Finding Sanctuary in the Modern World

In Praise of Retreat: Finding Sanctuary in the Modern World

Kirsteen MacLeod. ECW, $18.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-77041-473-0

Short story writer MacLeod (The Animal Game) delivers a satisfying exploration of and testament to the healing benefits of “removing yourself from society to a quiet place.” Seeking an escape from a harried professional life and feeling unfulfilled creativity, she and her partner decamped from Toronto to “a retreat in the woods.” They found there a “relief from life’s rushing and chafing” and an opportunity to “stop, gain clarity and make space for change.” MacLeod’s satisfaction in solitude sparked her to wonder: “What has inspired people, ancient and modern, to retreat?” She answers that question by drawing on her own research into philosophy, Western religion, culture, music, and Eastern spirituality to argue that retreat cultivates virtues of “freedom, attunement to self, attunement to nature, reflective perspective and creativity.” MacLeod also includes evocative descriptions of personal retreats to “wild places,” such as Scotland’s northwest Highlands, and “new sanctums,” such as Le Monastère des Augustines wellness center in Quebec. Her reflections on a difficult pilgrimage along Hastings Heritage Trail and a disastrous ashram retreat also demonstrate the difficult sides of getting away. But hardship, MacLeod writes, makes a retreat worthwhile. Anyone looking for a respite from everyday busyness or struggling through quarantine will be inspired by MacLeod’s fresh perspective on the benefits of solitude. (Mar.)