A Time of Light and Shadow
To Asia, Africa, and the Long Way Home
About the Book
An inspiring travel adventure memoir that explores a young woman’s quest to live life on the front lines, chasing adventure, and confronting the harsh realities of crisis work in Asia and Africa.
In 1975, a time of new freedom for women, Ella Harvey lived in Paris, worked as a nurse in war-torn Lebanon, and fell in love in Istanbul. Jostled between cultures, between love and loss, she found her way home. A year later, restless once again, she set off alone for India, a land of unsettling contradictions. A solo trek in the Himalayas completed that Asian journey.
By 1980 Ella was working for the International Red Cross, immersed in the heart-wrenching tragedy of a Cambodian refugee camp, and later that same year with the nomadic Issa in the drought-ridden desert of Djibouti, Africa. Faced with the immensity of poverty and suffering, her commitment to service was shaken.
Four decades later, in 2019, Ella returned to India, asking herself as an older woman, “Would I dare do now what I readily did then?” A Time of Light and Shadow explores one woman’s complicity in privilege, a troubled past with her mother, and reflections on solitude and friendship, youth and aging, longing and belonging.
“In her powerful memoir A Time of Light and Shadow, Ella Harvey reveals her experiences as a nurse in high-conflict zones, a traveller in search of spirituality and love, and a daughter seeking to understand her mother. She brings to life the people she meets with clear, sharp brushstrokes, humility and respect.” —Claire Mulligan, Giller-nominated author of The Reckoning of Boston Jim and The Dark; award-winning screenwriter of The Still Life of Annika Myers; story consultant and editor; university instructor in creative writing
“A Time of Light and Shadow is a courageous story of compassion, self-discovery and cross-cultural immersion amidst a backdrop of some of the world’s most fascinating wonders and devastating humanitarian crises. Ella Harvey’s expansive journey seamlessly weaves the exploration of the external together with the internal, opening new perspectives into the depths of the human spirit and what it means to live a meaningful life.” —Michael Schauch, author of A Story of Karma: Finding Love and Truth in the Lost Valley of the Himalaya
“This courageous book is a journey into the restless nature of travel itself, both in contemporary times and long before cellphones, Google maps and Tripadvisor, when foreign worlds were farther away and it was rare for a single woman to travel alone, especially as an aid worker. Ella’s willingness to be touched and changed by the people she meets – both as a young woman and as an older woman still on the go decades later – is a wonderful tonic for cynicism. Reading A Time of Light and Shadow reminded me of how to walk through our beautiful, wounded world: open-eyed, open-hearted, mindful of both gifts received and debts incurred.” —Karen Connelly, author of The Lizard Cage, Burmese Lessons and Touch The Dragon
“This lyrical, big-hearted book is about a woman living in the moment, whatever that particular moment is. Ella lives large, recklessly falls in love a few times and takes us on the ride. A Time of Light and Shadow is multi-layered, combining sobering experiences of humanitarian work with wanderlust… and the vivid intensities of life on the road.” —Louisa Waugh, nomadic humanitarian, author of Hearing Birds Fly and Meet Me in Gaza