Book review: A Visually Stunning Love Letter to the Salish Sea

This book takes the reader through the four seasons of a year, highlighting the turn of the seasons and the plants, birds, animals and sea life

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Four Seasons by the Salish Sea
Discovering the Natural Wonders of Coastal Living

Carolyn Redl  | Heritage House Publishing

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$32.95 |  278pp.

Vancouver Island author Carolyn Redl loves the Salish Sea, and together with B.C. photographer Nancy Randall she has produced a charming book that celebrates that love.

Redl, a mid-life émigré from the Prairies to the shores of the sea, adopts a time-honoured format for her celebration, an account of her seasonal travels and observations on the waters of the Salish Sea and on the lands that border it.

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Together with Randall’s lovely colour photography, this book takes the reader through the four seasons of a year, highlighting the turn of the seasons and the plants, birds, animals and sea life most notable in each.

First, a matter of nomenclature. Salish Sea designates an international sea that includes the Strait of Georgia, Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The relatively recent adoption of this usage in 2010 was prompted by campaigns led by U.S. tribes and Canadian Indigenous nations who have lived on the shores of this rich bioregion for millennia. They persuasively argued that the name reflected the underlying unity of the sea and its shorelines and its extensive history of human settlement better than colonial names like the Strait of Georgia.

Redl begins the seasonal round with a chapter about spring beside the Salish Sea, and captures the promise and excitement of that season, complete with the momentous arrival of the herring spawn just off local beaches. The chapter closes with a visit to the Deep Bay Marine Field station and a face-to-face encounter with one of its resident octopuses, capped by a feast of oysters at a local restaurant.

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The remaining chapters take Redl up and down the shores of the Salish Sea, visiting campgrounds and local restaurants, hiking trails and beaches, always exploring new occasions for the enthusiastic delight that is the core emotion of the charming book.  Plants, fish and mammals are all celebrated, and the accompanying colour photos add new layers of delight.

If there is anything to be regretted about this lovely book it is that it sometimes suffers from the curse of awkward exposition, with volumes of background detail presented as somewhat stilted dialogue.  But this is a minor cavil. This is a book that will delight many readers, and a perfect gift for friends and family you want to lure to the Pacific coast.


Tom Sandborn lives and writes in Vancouver. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at [email protected]

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