This beautiful book on the humankind's urge to leave civilization behind and go out into the wilderness aspires to be a "Walden" for the 21st century.While North Cairn falls short of Thoreau, her memoir of the seasons spentin complete isolation on Monomoy, a small island with nothing but a singlelighthouse off the Atlantic coast, is powerful nonetheless. Descriptionsof island wildlife--white-tailed deer, the death of a gull, the dustymiller on the dunes--alternate with Cairn's reflections on her innerlife and deepening consciousness of her spirituality.

One of the book's most illuminating comments comes when Cairn recognizesthat her fear for her safety on the island, like her fear of being alone,was really "a choice; which is to say, there are other alternatives,different ways to feel." By leaving human society, Cairn was able torecognize the degree to which even our most instinctual reflexes areshaped by moral choices. One wonders whether she was able to retain theselessons when faced with other people--who can, after all, induce fearsand anxieties deeper than any isolation.