Finding Heartstone

A Taste of Wilderness

By Cathy Sosnowsky

Categories: Memoir
Imprint: Caitlin Press
Paperback : 9781773860343, 120 pages, October 2020


With tenderness and affection, Finding Heartstone captures the psychological, physical, and emotional impact of wilderness living and family tragedy.


When Cathy Sosnowsky, her husband Woldy, and their little boy Alex first joined the Hemming Bay Community, a cooperative formed to preserve a large piece of wilderness on a remote coastal island of British Columbia, she found the idea of owning part of an island appealing. But the paradise she envisioned reveals itself as a harsh and hostile environment--the water too cold to swim, the beaches rocky and jagged. After increasing her family with the adoption of two children, and the building of a communal lodge, Cathy began to recognize the joys a wild environment offers. But when their lives take a tragic turn with the loss of their son Alex to a fatal accident and his siblings to addiction, the couple begins to drift apart. Determined to find a way through the anguish and alienation, Woldy finds his recipe for healing by building Heartstone Lodge with his brother Vic, while Cathy pursues a healing journey through her writing. Ironically, the writing becomes her link to Heartstone Lodge, drawing her back to the support of the community and the wilderness she shared with her children.

Through anecdotes of living in nature and the stories of the people and animals of Hemming Bay, a different type of family emerges and Cathy reflects on the imposing presence of those who have departed, some by way of death. After their son Michael returns with a longing for Hemming Bay fish and chips, their family begins to rebuild, re-establishing their tradition of sharing meals as a reminder of summer days spent in the wild.

With quiet strength and conviction, Cathy confronts her emotions and reflects on the healing power of nature in this tender memoir.


“In Finding Heartstone, Cathy Sosnowky has created a wonderful book; a beautifully written, brutally honest, and somewhat reluctant love letter to her damaged family, set on a little-known emerald island along BC’s inner coast. Finding Heartstone is an ocean-bound family saga that ebbs and flows with themes of deep love and unimaginable loss. Woven throughout this amazing story of hippie idealism and family bonds, are curious and terrifying tales: a squatter hermit, a cougar attack, a prison sentence, and the building of a dream to quell a nightmare. By the end of this heart-wrenching tale, you’ll long for your own little place in the wilderness, and have a serious hankering for Hemming Bay fish and chips. Luckily for you, the recipe to that dish along with many others, are scattered throughout this unbelievably true family saga, like the seashells on the rocky shores of East Thurlow Island.”

—Grant Lawrence, author of Adventures in Solitude

Finding Heartstone tells of a house in the wilderness and its builders, a family marked by abandonment, grief, separation. With well-chosen and often poetic detail, Cathy Sosnowsky shows how, over decades, the act of construction enriches each of their lives. A beautifully-written book.”

—Cynthia Flood, author of The English Stories and Red Girl, Rat Boy

“In Finding Heartstone, Cathy Sosnowsky weaves a beautiful, stirring personal narrative describing a dream she and her husband realize: purchasing vacation property on a remote island on British Columbia’s west coast. With eloquence and poignancy, she contrasts their wilderness adventures with an inner wilderness that occupies their lives after devastating losses. As day-to-day realities unfold we find ourselves caring about a boating couple from Seattle who help gather stones to erect a fireplace for the island lodge, the story of the raven who talks to her husband, an adopted son who gets married in China, the fate of a squatter’s dog, and the author herself. Sosnowsky writes about an ordinary life, details resembling the stories of our lives, or the lives of others we know. Finding Heartstone awakens in us memories of our own dreams, losses, and small victories as we travel uncharted paths between a comfortable life and our untamed world—inviting us to find the lost pieces of our own story.”

—Ray McGinnis, author of Writing the Sacred and Unanswered Question