Although the term “snowflake” appears nowhere in Remmy Stourac’s AN ARSENAL OF GRATITUDE (Waging War on Mediocrity and Regret), this is very much a book that speaks strongly against the ideology of fragility that has created “safe spaces” and other measures that are supposed to protect people from every possible hurt, real or imagined. In fact the author himself describes his book as “an unapologetic assault against a wide variety of things that have normalized mediocrity and complacency.” Stourac, a survivor of childhood leukemia who now makes his living as a hunting guide in the Northwest Territories of Canada, recommends that people engage with their suffering or even seek it out. “Struggle is your greatest asset. Whether it be in vain or for good is yours to own,” he writes. “You can choose your struggle. If you choose no struggle, struggles will find you and you will play your whole life on defence.”
Stourac, however, hasn’t written this book just to impart his wisdom as a young man who has come close to death and who makes his living in a high-risk occupation. His goal is to raise $1 million to contribute to the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta, which took care of him when he was diagnosed at four years old and to which he returned to be a counselor in his 20s. Several of the best parts of AN ARSENAL OF GRATITUDE are stories of the children there, as well as anecdotes about the author’s experiences as a guide in the Northwest Territories, hunting for caribou and other big game. Stourac, who has also written novels, might have done better to focus more on such narratives than on advising readers on the best way to live. His profiles of the children are very moving, while his hunting anecdotes effectively convey the challenges and contentment of that lifestyle.
To be sure, there is lots of useful advice in the book and Stourac is not overbearing in the telling. But nothing he says is especially original nor expressed in a particularly gripping way. (For example, “With no fear there can be no courage. With no hardship there can be no strength” and “It is because nothing is permanent or promised that gratitude is secret sauce of life.”) Another problem with the book is that Stourac provides advice on fundamental issues that he has neither experienced nor researched. For instance, he provides a list of things he will never do, including not yelling in anger when he gets married. He also spends a lot of pages explaining why no one who watches pornography can have a good marital relationship.
There is lots of useful advice in Remmy Stourac’s AN ARSENAL OF GRATITUDE and his stories about cancer camp and guiding in the wilderness are moving and well told.
~Kevin Baldeosingh for IndieReader