Complicated Simplicity

Island Life in the Pacific Northwest

By (author): Joy Davis
ISBN 9781772032703
Softcover | Publication Date: April 16, 2019
Book Dimensions: 6 in x 9 in
264 Pages

About the Book

A frank, practical, and entertaining exploration of the pleasures and complexities of living on small islands.

Many people dream of living simple lives on small islands, but few are aware of some of the unique challenges that accompany this distinctive lifestyle. From negotiating surrounding waters to creating a sustainable home and making a viable life away from urban conveniences, small-island living can be rewarding or difficult (or both), depending on myriad circumstances.

Complicated Simplicity: Island Life in the Pacific Northwest draws on a variety sources to contextualize peoples’ enduring fascination with islands worldwide, including the author’s own experiences growing up on Bath Island (off Gabriola) and her interviews with over twenty intrepid figures who live on the San Juan Islands, the Gulf Islands, the Discovery Islands, and in Clayoquot Sound. Ingenuity, tenacity, and a passion for living in these special places shine through in the personal stories, as does a shared concern for safety, sustainability, and thoughtful stewardship. Engaging, inspiring, and often funny, Complicated Simplicity offers readers honest and useful insights on the joys, perils, and rewards of island life.

About the Author(s)

For nearly three decades, Joy Davis has balanced family, sailing, and coastal cruising with a career in cultural heritage and community engagement. She holds an MA in museum studies and a PhD in educational studies. She directed the University of Victoria’s museum and heritage programs for twenty-five years. Since retiring, she has worked for the journal Museum Management and Curatorship, is a member of the Advisory Group for the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice, and serves as a Trustee on the Greater Victoria Library Board.


“In Complicated Simplicity, Joy Davis has done for islands what Farley Mowat once did for wolves; she has provided a much deeper understanding and enlightenment of true island life, and the type of hardy, salty souls who choose off-grid islands as homes: where failure is knowledge, simplicity is best, and life is timed not so much by the clock but by the wind, the sun, and the tides. Highly recommended for anyone who as ever lived on an island, or dreamt of doing so.” —Grant Lawrence, author of Adventures in Solitude: What Not to Wear to a Nude Potluck and Other Stories from Desolation Sound
"Part memoirist and part guide, Joy Davis takes you along for a roller-coaster west-coast boat ride to all my favourite islands . . . If you lose everything else on the crossing, hang on to the book. You’ll have everything you need to survive!” —Briony Penn, author of A Year on the Wild Side: A West Coast Naturalist’s Almanac
“Joy Davis provides wannabe islanders with a ‘how-to guide for island living,’ describing the complex realities of island life on the Pacific coast. Raised on Bath Island, she explores the joys and the hardships that make island life rewarding for some and not for others.” —Pat Carney, author of On Island: Life Among the Coast Dwellers and Trade Secrets
Complicated Simplicity captures both the dream and the realities of island life. Interviews with islanders reveal the true skill sets, both emotional and physical, required to overcome challenges and experience the wonder and majesty of life surrounded by water.” —Sally-Christine Rodgers, author of Convergence: A Voyage Through French Polynesia
“Capturing ‘islandness’ is as elusive as catching a wave in a jar. But through her love of island places and her joy in island living, Joy Davis provides glimpses into how traits of islandness—ingenuity, living within limits, resilience—help us survive and thrive together on island earth.” —Dr. Laurie Brinklow, Island Studies, University of Prince Edward Island
Complicated Simplicity is a journalistic inquiry, executed with integrity and sensitivity, that yields insight, wonder, and even joy.” —Tom Groening, editor of Island Journal and The Working Waterfront
“Part memoir, part manual for slow(er) living, and part anthropological essay . . .Complicated Simplicity is bound to please armchair travellers, west coast historians, island studies scholars, and small islanders alike.” —Phillip Vannini, author of Ferry Tales and Off the Grid
“Joy Davis is an old-growth islander who values practical advice and good stories. She brings both to this funny, smart, poignant guide, along with a caution that the experience of island living is something you carry with you the rest of your life.” —Donna Livingstone, President and CEO, Glenbow Museum
“Complicated Simplicity is a thorough exploration of the oft romanticized ideal of being an islander”—Jules Torti, 49th Shelf
"The contributors (including a few from Maine and Nova Scotia) have generously offered up personal experiences- their successes and failures, disappointments and happy surprise—to benefit others. If you or anyone you know is contemplating life on an island, this book—both cautionary and inspiring- is essential." Working Waterfront