Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cabin at Singing River: Building a Home in the Wilderness - Chris Czajkowski

The Basics: Cabin at Singing River: Building a Home in the Wilderness, Chris Czajkowski, 1991, 149 pages, paperback.

How I found it: My dad has read most of Czajkowski's books (along with most of the non-fiction section of his local public library) and recommended that I read something of hers. I chose to begin with her first book.

What's it about?: Czajkowski was born in the UK but apparently has lived all over the world. She moved to Canada in the late '80s, settling in Salmon Arm, BC, but found city life too hectic. If you've ever been to Salmon Arm, you might find this a bit laughable. Nevertheless, Czajkowski ended up in the Chilcotin area of BC, south of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park in her search for solitude. Some friends of hers had an old homestead that could only be reached by a float plane or a 2 day hike in from the road. They agree to let her erect a cabin on their property. This book details her struggle to build the log cabin herself, and to make her home in the wilderness. Oh, and did I mention she had never used a chain saw before?

Did I like it?: While Czajkowski is definitely an odd character, I definitely related to her in a lot of ways. The idea of setting out nearly alone in the bush, building your own home, and being self-reliant is very appealing in a lot of ways. The fact that a woman with no carpentry experience accomplished this is admirable as well. I would love to be able to walk out my front door and do a multi-day off-trail hike. Czajkowski is not an exceptionally gifted writer, but her succinct and personal style, coupled with her interesting subject matter make for a good read.

Will you like it?: Many of Peter Gzowski's CBC listeners did. Czajkowski wrote periodic letters to his morning radio program, and reading them became a regular feature on his show. Many Canadians were interested to hear the story of an independent woman living alone in the wilderness. She is the Susanna Moodie of our time. Of course, if you hate the outdoors, you might not like the book, but that will be your loss.

But don't take my word for it: A collection of reviews on, a bio on the author from BC Bookworld, a review from the blog Classical Bookworm (complete with a reply from the author in the comments section), and finally the author's web page with info about her books, as well as the guiding operation she runs out of one of her newer wilderness cabins.

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