A meditation on AIDS and the destruction of the environment. Debut author Grover spent most of the late 1980s working with AIDS patients at San Francisco General. Her work, she writes unapologetically, burned her out, leaving her depressed, anxious, guilt-ridden. And so she left, taking what ``was known in AA circles as the geographic cure: move on, the fantasy ran, and your problems would be different—either that, or they would simply go away.'' Returning to her native state of Minnesota, Grover took up rural life in the North Woods. But her problems did not disappear, and the bulk of her slender book is given over to addressing her sorrow. We do not learn enough about what this rural life entailed- -how much wood she burned in winter to keep warm, whether she had to fight off cabin fever—to connect with this author as we have with other backwoods chroniclers (Thoreau, Dillard). But Grover has other purposes: A graceful polemicist, she pokes deserved fun at what she calls The Rock Hudson Factor, ``the index of the points at which free-floating anxiety and ignorance alight'' on society at large. More seriously, she examines Aldo Leopold's formulation that ``one of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.'' This is certainly true in the North Woods, where vast tracts of forest are clear-cut for pulpwood and timber; even so, Grover found that ``everywhere a powerful beauty remains.'' The same holds true, she suggests, of the ravaged lives of AIDS sufferers. The possibilities for mawkishness in equating the devastation of disease with the devastation wrought on a landscape are endless, but Grover sidesteps the worst traps and does not sentimentalize her subjects, human (``AIDS does not turn people into saints,'' she admonishes) or natural. Grover's thoughtful memoir invites the reader to join in learning how to ``salvage beauty from loss.''
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