Shapes of Brave

To Asia, Africa, and the long way home

Shapes of Brave explores the quest of a young woman wanting to live life on the front lines and be of service in the world. Confronting the harsh realities of conflict zones, chasing adventure, and seeking relationship, she finds connection in disparate cultures. As a reflective inquiry of the heart, the memoir traverses hot terrains of passion and cooler landscapes of sorrow. 

It was 1975, a time of new freedoms for women to determine their destinies. During that time, Ella lived in Paris, worked as a nurse in Lebanon, a country at war, and fell in love in Istanbul. One year later she set off alone for India, a land of baffling contradictions, with a solo trek in the Himalayas crowning her 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 with the nomadic Issa in the drought-ridden desert of Djibouti, Africa. Faced with the immensity of poverty and suffering, her commitment was strong but shaken.

Four decades later, Ella returns to India, facing new vulnerabilities as an older woman. Reflecting on the longings of youth, the precariousness and the privileges of her life, she finds a bridge between solitude and deep connection. She believes it is in conscious engagement with 'the other' that we find our common humanity.  

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Book cover pending


Encounters on the Front Line


Encounters on the Front Line is a nurse’s journey that begins in a Cambodian refugee camp after the horrific Khmer Rouge regime. Nearly three decades later Ella returns. She meets the people on the front lines - the human rights activists, the caregivers, and those who needed care, inspiring her to explore the challenges of service.


"Powerful and poignant, intimate and insightful. The careful reader will learn a great deal about Cambodia’s recent history and current culture as the Khmer people struggle to deal with the unfathomable trauma that continues to shape them."
— Bill Herod, Human Rights Worker, Cambodia


"A riveting and enlightening book, brimming with perspective.  Elaine writes with great honesty, passion and clarity." 
— Woody Wheeler, author of Look Up 


Encounters on the Front Line

is available through the following sites






You can't cross the sea
by merely standing and staring at the water.
Rabrindanath  Tagore