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A time of light and shadow

This courageous book is a journey into the restless nature of travel itself, both in contemporary times and long before cellphones, Google maps, and Trip Advisor, 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










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 and 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 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, author of Hearing Birds Fly, Meet Me in Gaza, and nomadic humanitarian


Diane Westwood

In A Time of Light and Shadow: To Asia, Africa and the Long Road Home Ella Harvey gracefully ties together the multiple landscapes of travel and work in humanitarian disasters with a personal, interior journey of purpose, identity, love, and reconciliation over a span of several decades. The book is a pleasure to hold and read. Ella’s skilled, lyrical writing gives colour and form to the immediacy of her experiences. As readers, we are invited into each encounter witnessing her capacity for self-reflection and for holding the beauty and brokenness of our world together.


Wendy Brown

With eloquence and descriptive elegance, Ella Harvey takes her readers deep into the heart of her questing life and adventurous solo travels. A Time of Light and Shadow is an engaging memoir that illuminates the difference between being a traveller and merely a tourist. The author definitely is the former, as she opens her mind and her heart to the world, whether she is exploring far-flung places, connecting deeply with the people she meets or offering her gifts as a highly-skilled nurse in a conflict zone. I am inspired by a life lived like that, as I was by this excellent book


Catherine Lang

This memoir is a wonderful read for anyone who knows the lust for travel in their heart, which author Ella Harvey most certainly does. As a solo woman traveller in the 1970s and ‘80s, she kept journals that she relied on extensively while writing this memoir decades later. The result is, at times, a hauntingly beautiful and harrowing account of life-changing experiences abroad.
When the author returns to India as an older woman, she sees herself again as that young free spirit and also as a woman who has lived a full life. She visits her beloved Taj Mahal several times, reminiscing and reflecting about the course of that life. When she observes the contrast between herself as a young woman, battling and most often at odds with her mother, next to the older woman she is now, at the bedside of her dying mother, we feel her experience of life coming full circle, a wisdom gained. A compelling book.


Trevor Schindeler

A Time of Light and Shadow, by Ella Harvey, is a remarkable book, and a remarkable story. Sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, and chapter by chapter, it is eloquently written and deeply engaging. The wealth of local detail is fascinating and keeps the reader by her side as she explores parts of the world less intrepid travelers prefer to avoid. Ella’s personal story of seeking belonging, meaning, and personal understanding while working selflessly as a nurse in war zones and refugee camps across the globe, and through adventurous solo expeditions through India and the Himalayas, is equally captivating. In both the quality of her writing and in her extraordinary life story, Ella has much to share with readers.


Ramona Mckean

Polished, Poetic, Thought-Provoking Prose

I enjoyed this memoir from Ella Harvey, from its evocative, fitting title to its polished, poetic prose. In and out of love, in and out of disaster zones, in and out of divergent cultures and in and out of cultural clashes....
I liked the way the author had me vicariously reflect on my own cultural mindset and also on my own “privileged” status as a Canadian. As a Canadian nurse working with people suffering the dire consequences of war and famine and travelling through areas with extreme poverty, the author reveals her sensitive social conscience. I wondered, “Would this be me too?”
Holding the book in my hands, I appreciate its beautiful cover, its uncluttered and attractive layout, its short “bite-sized” chapters and its many colour photographs. This book was an enjoyable and enlightening read.

Berenice Gonzalez  (Lupita)

Cinematic, yet delicate, A time of Light and Shadow: To Asia, Africa, and the Long Way Home by Ella Harvey encompasses the joyous, the intricate, the unexpected and the passionate in solo travelling. An acute sense of observation and a soulful empathy for the peoples encountered is rendered through the voice and lens of the eager young woman as well as through the musings of the observer of later years who looks back on the roads travelled embracing herself anew. Courageous writing and a most enjoyable read.

Claire Mulligan

A Time of Light and Shadows Ella, as a young Canadian nurse, is called to action with Doctors without Borders and finds herself saving lives in war-torn Lebanon, and then later in Djibouti as one of the very few medical professionals racing to save lives in famine that the world has forgotten. She touches on her time in Cambodia, too, when she was worked as nurse after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. But these incredible feats of courage and compassion are set against her equally compelling journeys through Turkey, India and Asia finding love, exploring spirituality, and then later in life, retreading those same paths with a different eye. It is a humane, unique story that will inspire and inform.

Marion Ehrenberg

A Gripping and Transportive Story of Travel and Personal Journey

In her second book, A Time of Light and Shadow, Ella Harvey takes us on her compelling journey To Asia, Africa, and the Long Way Home. Handwritten journals over many years her constant companion and thick with lived experience, Ella’s beautifully written memoir transports to times and places of remote beauty and unimaginable hardship. Her descriptions are rich, even filmic, and her reflections authentic and gritty; I felt myself swept into her world and her journey. Beyond the spectacular rendition of time, people, and place, A Time of Light and Shadow is a heartfelt and relatable account of one,



The immediate pace of this book caught me by surprise, the author exercises precision on what, and more importantly, what not to include - each chapter is a fleeting taste of a key point in their story. The eloquence, and at times poetic writing ensures this style of delivery is still rich and fulfilling. If you benefit from a vivid imagination, the lean chapters in no way detract from the mix of personally challenging insights and pleasure of joining Ella on her travels.



I absolutely loved this thoughtful, beautifully written memoir. Highly recommended for any reader who has burned with the desire to travel and see new worlds.


Lisa Duncan

Ella is a gifted travel writer with the ability to take her readers on a ride worth taking. Despite my varied travels, I've never been to Lebanon, Turkey, Nepal, India, Cambodia, or Djibouti, and yet, through her detailed descriptions and vivid storytelling, I felt like she had taken me along with her: walking down dusty roads and through formidable mountain passes, taking in the varied sights, sounds and smells of each place, meeting the locals who made her journeys so memorable. I understood Ella's passion for adventure and the allure of exploring unpredictable destinations. I could also relate to the importance of paving one's own path, to lead an authentic life rather than giving into what others expect. A great read, especially if you want to experience armchair travel through the observant eyes of a solo woman traveller in a pre-digital world.


Margot Fedoruk

This was a great read about a woman who travels the world working as a nurse taking her to exotic locales. I really enjoyed her love affairs that often took her off track of her mission to make the world a better place! Filled with sad and beautiful moments- very well-written.


Jean Margison

This book resonated with me as I read of the author's life as a solo traveller, and her search for new experiences and love . Her descriptions of people and places brought them to life for me, especially her time as a nurse in Djibouti. I also felt her desire to return, as an older woman, to India which had been such an important part of her youth

Eve Whitehead

This is a very interesting & intriguing, true tale of world travels, independence & romance. A young woman forging her path in her own way despite obstacles along the way. I was inspired by the young Ella and impressed with the reflections of the mature Ella. It was a book I didn't want to come to an end and hope there will be another one published by the author soon.


Sonia Ross

Occasionally, I start reading a book that I can’t put down and, as I’m reading, I’m already regretting the day when I’ll reach the last page and it will be over. This was one of those books.
Ms Harvey is as brave and adventurous and honest on the page as she is in the experiences she shares with the reader. Her descriptions of the cities and villages she travels through in Asia and Africa, and the people she encounters, are vibrant and colourful. She doesn’t hold back on the misery and joy she sees, and how it impacts her personally.
I highly recommend this book.


Patti Shales

In the mid-seventies, free-spirited Ella left Canada on her own in search of freedom at a time when many young North American women struggled to find their way to any sort of independence. She found work as a private duty nurse in Paris. One day she received an unexpected phone call inviting her to join a mission to Lebanon with Médecins Sans Frontières. She accepted on the spot, leaving the next morning for the war-torn country, a brief experience that would change her life.
Ella’s evocative imagery takes us from the majestic Himalayas to the stark desert of Africa. Her respect for the people of each new culture encountered, her heartfelt descriptions, and her understanding of the poverty that shapes their lives offer enlightening insights. A Time of Light and Shadow illustrates the immeasurable value of keeping detailed travel j
ournals. Drawing on the richness of those original journal entries, Ella creates a lyrical, reflective, and haunting tale of the separate but intertwined eras of her life.
I highly recommend A Time of Light and Shadow. You’ll be hooked from that first phone call to follow Ella’s intrepid and introspective journey of self-discovery.

Meaghan Hackinen

Ella Harvey’s memoir is one of adventure, growth, connection, and reflection. As a fellow female traveler, I can relate on so many levels, but what makes “A Time of Light and Shadow” such a great read is the author’s willingness to reveal her younger self on the page and share what makes us human.

Kat Nicholls

The author takes us with her as a young woman experiencing the best and the worst of humanity in some of the most beautiful, dangerous, and heartbreaking places on earth. She brings those places and people alive for us. We can feel the dust and the heat, see the people, experience their lives and humanity. This book grabbed me by the heart and wouldn't let go.

Nicole Forward

A beautiful story of a young woman’s adventurous spirit and self-discovery through travel, service to others, and connection with those she meets along the way!!

Dianne Lanthier

Ella Ella Ella…. What a fabulous book you wrote! Every night I couldn’t wait to go to bed and pick up your book and read another 20-30 pages. Your writing made me feel and smell and experience what you experienced. What a way with words you have while documenting your life travels and experiences.
A definite Must Read!

Unknown reviewer

A Time of Light and Shadow, by Ella Harvey, is a remarkable book, and a remarkable story. Sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, and chapter by chapter, it is eloquently written and deeply engaging. The wealth of local detail is fascinating, and keeps the reader by her side as she explores parts of the world less intrepid travellers prefer to avoid. Ella’s personal story of seeking belonging, meaning, and personal understanding while working selflessly as a nurse in war zones and refugee camps across the globe, and through adventurous solo expeditions through India and the Himalayas, is equally captivating. In both the quality of her writing, and in her extraordinary life story, Ella has much to share with readers.

Yamuna Flaherty

Ella Harvey's memoir explores themes such as courage, finding our home, responsibility for suffering, and meeting ourselves at every turn of our lives. It is a testament to the female adventure spirit, which often has to battle social conformity, big questions on marriage and motherhood, and finding stability. Ella's prose is graceful and beautiful, and the book moves at an exciting pace that brings the reader on an adventure through the decades of her life and the changes in the world. I highly recommend you add this book to your collection.



Norah Wakula

 What a wonderful read. Ella Harvey’s prose is eloquent and evocative. Right from the first page, it drew me in. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down. Young Ella’s adventuresome search to find meaning and self and the older Ella’s reflective journey back pull at the heart. I read Harvey’s first memoir, Encounters on the Front Line: Cambodia: A Memoir. Can’t wait for the next one!


Alison Lohans

This was definitely a world-opening memoir. Here, I enjoyed Harvey's vivid renditions of a few places I'd visited and was quickly brought back into that country. One day I felt compelled to have a spur-of-the-moment lunch at my favourite East Indian restaurant - because Harvey's descriptions of the food made my mouth water. Her reflections on work in refugee camps were particularly harrowing; they gave me important glimpses into personal and ethnic tragedies that more people should be aware of as we seek to understand the worldwide human condition, not merely our own privileged existence.
A Time of Light and Shadow offers up deep reflections on our place in this shared world, at given stages of life.


Woody Wheeler

 Ella Harvey lived every experience she wrote about, and in some cases, lived through them. This shows in the intensity of the experiences she describes in her fascinating book.
The images of Harvey's work and travel were incredibly vivid, which is a credit to her writing. She also wrote eloquently about the internal dialogue that was going on, an aspect that is often neglected by other authors. I appreciated the historical, political, geographical, and religious information that she researched and wove into the stories. In addition to the compelling travelogue and first-hand Canadian Red Cross experiences, her book was current and informative.
All of this makes for a compelling read that provides authentic perspectives on dramatically different cultures than those found in the U.S. or in the author's Canadian homeland

Barbara Risto

Well written and fast paced. This true life story is a page turner. There’s hardly a moment to catch your breath as the author takes you from one extreme situation to another as she crisscrossed the globe on humanitarian missions and her quest for love. It’s a window into a young girls life as a nurse, discovering who she is amid some of the most devastating world situations imaginable. I kept comparing where I was in my life as Ella galloped through countries in turmoil, serving in front line treacherous circumstances. A brave soul with many questions, only some of which get answered 40 years later as she reflects back on her life during a return trip to India. Highly recommended. 

Helen Arnott

 This well-written and remarkable Memoir paints a vivid picture of people, places, sights, sounds, scents and tastes some of which I may never experience. It has joined my ReReads collection. 

Sharon Coppin

 This book allowed me to travel & experience with the author. Couldn’t put it down, but also didn’t want it to end. Very enjoyable read! 

Lois Cosgrave

Ella Harvey's memoir, A Time of Light and Shadow, tells the remarkable adventures of a young nurse from home in Canada to Paris, Lebanon, India, Cambodia and Djibouti. The vivid story telling made me feel like I was travelling along side her.

Adrian Dyck

I just finished the final pages of your book, A Time of Light and Shadow, sitting in a beautiful and simple courtyard garden of a home in Mexico City. I wept good tears…something about aging and the relationship between ones’s younger self and ones “older” self was deeply touching for me. Such an engaging and wonderful book from beginning to end. Congratulations!


Laurel Borisenko

Ella Harvey has written a compelling account of her international work and travel. I was drawn in by the detail and vulnerability with which she describes and processes these experiences. The book flows smoothly from scene to scene, bringing us along for a great ride

Tony Rozario

This is a fascinating story of one crazy adventurous woman’s travels through the Lebanon and Turkey, the Himalayas and India. A well written story of life in the 70’s when I , in my twenties, dreamed of seeing the world through the eyes of the locals.
Her return journey later in life brings home for me the love for the people around her, whether in India or back at home.

Marie-Claude Arnott

A Time of Light and Shadow is a page-turner, the physical, visual, and romantic account of a female solo traveler back then. It's also the emotional account of a nurse who doesn’t hesitate to veer from serene spaces to humanitarian devastation. The book is an escape for women who "then" didn’t have to mind their safety when walking around or meeting a stranger. Young travelers will be inspired by the author’s gained insights as she returns to India many years later. It also reminds us that nursing is still a selfless vocation. The book took me to more 'places' than the story itself.

Hilary Crawley

A Time of Light and Shadow is a remarkable book. Full of vivid imagery as the narrator traverses remote areas of the world with impulsive spontaneity. An honest and courageous take on life as travelled, together with deep introspective soul-searching along the journey.

Fifi Tong

I was lucky to met Ella during a trip to India in 2019. In fact, I am the Brazilian friend she mentions in the book.
We had such wonderful conversations, and I knew then that Ella was a differentiated person.
Her book confirms that. Sensitive, emotional, courageous.
What a life experience!

Laura Carolina

I met the author recently and plan to read her other book, an earlier one, having just finished this one. Our ages are similar, we both enjoy solo travel, and we live in the same city, but Ms. Harvey has accomplished much, travelled far and contributed to humanitarian causes in several parts of the world. Her adventures as a young woman are astounding (hiking alone in the Himalayas?!) and leave me in awe. Her willingness to help as a nurse in war-torn or famine-ravaged countries is commendable and impressive. I appreciate her reminiscences about life and choices and her musings about growing older.
I look forward to reading "Encounters on the Front Line: Cambodia - A Memoire."

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Encounters on the FRONT LINE

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


This is one of the few books I read everything written there. I can hardly put it aside to do other things. I like the way you tell the story- I can visualize what it looks like and how you feel. I am also moved by the fact that you carry the Cambodia history with you and return to this country to explore more. I am very familiar with the story you tell as I myself am a victim of the war and I lived my life in the border camps of displaced persons for over a decade. Thank you for documenting such compelling experiences.

Samneang Moul, Cambodia


This book is more than a personal journey; it's a universal journey into the meaning of compassion in Cambodia's deeply tragic story.    

Kari Grady Grossman, Human Rights Activist, Cambodia  


Encounters on the Front Line is…a story well and passionately told. To read this book is also to witness to our times.

Kim Echlin, Writer: The Disappeared

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A gripping book. The telling is so matter-of-fact and simply stated that it takes a while before the stark reality of the tale sinks in. And it does. Through it all, the author is there with you, but does not take over the narrative.

Jeff Dwyer, Writer 


This is a book to read in small measures to understand the vast magnitude of the human heart. 
Terry Ann Carter,  Poet


A riveting, enlightening read that brims with perspective. Harvey writes with great honesty, passion and clarity.     

Woody Wheeler, Environmentalist


Elaine nous les décrit avec beaucoup de profondeur et de poésie. Un livre que toute personne intéressée au travail humanitaire et au Cambodge devrait lire.

Élisabeth Carrier, International Nurse


Ernest Hemingway's great short story, "In Another Country," speaks in a very understated manner of the horrors of war, from the setting of a hospital near the front. There is a great deal of Hemingway's style in "Encounters on the Front Line: a Cambodia Memoir," as Elaine Harvey deftly and kindly understates much of what she saw in Cambodia. A touching and evocative memoir that never overstates or belabours.   

Gerald Weaver, Writer 

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In her book, Encounters on the Front Line, Elaine Harvey ventures three times into the shattered world of Pol Pot’s Cambodia, drawn to minister to the immediate victims of war and later, to a generation living the aftershocks. As witness to some of the world’s suffering, but also to deep caring and resourcefulness, Elaine cleanly carves to the bone of our personal connection to the harms and virtues of humanity. 
Willa Cannon, Nurse

In Encounters on the Front Line Harvey asks burning questions that are both universal and personal. She may not have found the answers she sought during the thirty year span of her book, but she has shared her profound experience of Cambodia with unflinching honesty, in luminous language that cuts to the bone.
Francine Volker, Teacher


J’ai beaucoup apprécié te lire… j’ai eu parfois peur pour toi…. Je t’ai trouvé parfois téméraire… parfois courageusement déterminée mais en tout temps j’ai senti ton immense souci des autres, ta sensibilité envers les injustices et les douleurs de ce monde. Te lire a été un immense plaisir.

Solange Vallieres, Nurse


Encounters on the Front Line is a passionate, graceful book that stays with you over time.

Charlotte Harvey, Teacher

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Encounters on the Front Line is powerful in all respects—emotion and language, societal and personal, poetic yet factual—It is at once, depressing and uplifting.  In the second part of the book the Front Line has simply shifted. It dangles the possibility that spiritual gains can be made even in such a difficult environment—it's conclusion being the pebble in the pond and the ripple effect.     

Randy Kaneen, Writer


This pilgrimage to Cambodia is a moving tale of intrigue, terror, amazement and humility! Harvey’s thoughtful, honest and insightful reflections are beautifully and poetically written.          

Bev Worbets, Nurse


An amazing travel story in Cambodia in the 80's and beyond. It’s not a travelogue but a multilayered personal journey.   

Pamela Gutrath, Photographer


It is wonderful to see the perspective of a front-line nurse with her passionate, eloquent and insightful account of this time and place in history.

Paul Hundal, Lawyer 

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Harvey encounters people on the front lines and attempts to define her own front line. The writing is emotionally compelling. Cambodia is painted vividly and her reactions, both joy and bewilderment are visceral.    

Rose Seiler Scott, Writer


A moving portrait of one woman's experience contextualized in, and across, time and place. Harvey's voice soars as she negotiates the challenges of her work, heart and what it means to do front line work.

Keeley Nixon, Web Design  


This is a very engaging book and I could hardly put it down.

John Ward, Scientist


From eating morning glory to the tuk-tuk drivers' methods of navigating oncoming traffic, Elaine's descriptions were spot on!

Veronica Allan, Teacher


Yours is a story we seldom hear Elaine…a woman humanitarian, eye-witness to the traumatic front line brutality of war and the following years of healing that is necessary for all who lived through it- including those who chose to be there to help and whose unseen scars lay heavy on their soul. I thank you for your insights…and sharing.
Sharon Urdahl, Artist, Poet

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There is no definitive answer to Harvey's question when travelling back to Cambodia and how could there be? She had an experience that will always be a part of her "as hard as shrapnel embedded in flesh, as soft as the fragrance of jasmine, and as perplexing as the beguiling smile of its people, the Khmer.
Mary Ann Moore, Poet


I could not put this book down. Visualizing the horrors that Elaine Harvey witnessed in Cambodia starting in 1980 was staggering.
Josie Harrigan, Fitness Leader


If I could sum up this memoir in one word, it would be "inspiring." Not only is Harvey brave and makes me want to be braver in my own life, but she found a way to portray this in her experiences without sounding too full of herself. I appreciated that.

Melissa Welch: USA, Goodreads Giveaways

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Elaine's sensitive and caring manner is vividly described in this story of her journey helping refugees and others less fortunate. Loved this book.

Jeanette Funke, Nursing Instructor


An inspiring, emotional, and spiritual book about a Canadian nurse who volunteers in Cambodia and learns a great deal about herself and life while there. 

Jill Dobbe, Writer


This book left me shaken and with many questions about my own call to serve. Congratulations on the creation of a truly valuable book that is so relevant and timeless.

Joanne Chaffey, Nurse


Encounters on the Front Line is an absorbing and beautiful memoir. Elaine Harvey not only takes us on a journey through the beauty and the horror of historical and contemporary Cambodia, she also takes us on a journey of the human heart.

Norah Wakula                                                                                      

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 A powerful read. The compelling, true story of one woman's brave service as a nurse in Cambodia and her return to a rebuilt nation twenty years later.    

Bennett Coles, Publisher


This is a very well written memoir and an intimate picture of a Cambodia and its people.
Chanticleer Book Review

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
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