Elixir: In the Valley at the End of Time (Paperback)
A search for a cure to what ails us in the Anthropocene by the award-winning author of Border
In Elixir, in a wild river valley and amid the three mountains that define it, Kapka Kassabova seeks out the deep connection between people, plants, and place. The Mesta is one of the oldest rivers in Europe and the surrounding forests and mountains of the southern Balkans are an extraordinarily rich nexus for plant gatherers.
Over several seasons, Kassabova spends time with the people of this magical region. She meets women and men who work in a long lineage of foragers, healers, and mystics. She learns about wild plants and the ancient practice of herbalism that makes use of them, and she experiences a symbiotic system where nature and culture have blended for thousands of years. Through her captivating encounters we come to feel the devastating weight of the ecological and cultural disinheritance that the people of this valley have suffered. And Kassabova reflects on what being disconnected from place can do to our souls and our bodies. Yet, in her search for elixir, she also finds reasons for hope. The people of the valley are keepers of a rare knowledge, not only of mountain plants and their properties, but also of how to transform collective suffering into healing.
Immersive and enthralling, Elixir is an urgent and unforgettable call to rethink how we live—in relation to one another, to Earth, and to the cosmos.
"Over several seasons (Kassabova’s move occurred at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic), the poet and writer set out to study the deep relationship between the area’s people and plants, as well as with the land itself."—Laura Kiniry, Smithsonian Magazine
"A radiant memoir of wonder and revelation."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Elixir is the latest example of Kapka Kassabova’s knack for sensory and poignant nonfiction. Her previous books, Border and To the Lake, were two unforgettable adventures brimming with rich history and beautiful characters. Elixir marks another step forward as her most immersive and organic work yet."—World Literature Today
“Elixir is the vibrant, beautiful story of a singular, remarkable place. It issues a call to reclaim the physical, emotional, and spiritual connection between humanity and the natural world.”–Catherine Thureson, Foreword (starred review)
"Poetic and wistful, it's a fascinating read for anyone who loves history, nature or the Balkans, with all its history both modern and ancient."—Lacey Pfalz, TravelPulse
"Kassabova's narrative loops and wanders, moving from plant-based healers to the plants themselves and other natives who call the Mesta basin home. Those who enter will be willing to get lost in this beautiful and aromatic maze, in which they will find rich and sumptuous wonders."—Poornima Apte, Booklist
"The mark of a good book is that it changes you. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Nan Shepherd, Robin Wall Kimmerer and Jay Griffiths have all wielded that power over me, but I’ve rarely been so aware of an internal change being wrought, word by word, as I have these past days immersed in Kapka Kassabova’s alchemical prose. I fancy she had me under her spell from page one, with reference to the 'smiling gallopL of rivers flowing downhill."—The Guardian (UK)