When the Sonoma Complex fire came to Elisa Stancil Levine’s California doorstep in 2017, her world changed overnight. The devastating fire torched thousands of acres, but for Elisa, a world-class decorative artist, it was her reaction that night that cracked her wide open. A loving wife, mother, and grandmother, Elisa thought she had reckoned with her early childhood trauma. But when she fled the midnight firestorm without alerting a single neighbor, she had to ask herself: Who does that?
In This or Something Better, Elisa revisits her past and the one force in which she has always found true kinship: the wild river. Nature, her lifelong ally, gave solace when she faced secret abuse as a toddler. Through teen pregnancy, her baby’s stillbirth, and a mystical near-death experience at eighteen, nature shaped her character, and it later informed her wildly successful career. But was there an unintended consequence?
The fresh trauma of the firestorm sparked a quest: what treasure awaited if Elisa learned to trust human nature? Vivid, poetic, and intimate, This or Something Better reveals how true healing of deep wounds happens one exquisite layer at a time—and invites us each to consider and embrace our own path toward wholeness and authenticity.