A lucid, welcome work of environmental investigation and—though Lambrecht, ever the journalist, protests otherwise—advocacy,...




A poignant chronicle of an emblematic American river, mistreated and abused over the generations but never worse than today.

The Missouri River drains the largest expanse of land of any river in the United States, embracing 5,761 miles across eight states—a full sixth of the nation. Yet, writes St. Louis Post-Dispatch correspondent Lambrecht (Dinner at the New Gene Café, 2001), the nation seems to have forgotten all about it. And not with benign neglect: The Missouri begins, tainted by E. coli, in a Montana valley whose principal industry has recently applied to “burn scrap tires—75 per hour, 1,800 per day, 657,000 per year.” Things are no better, Lambrecht records, at the river’s terminus near St. Louis, where the Lewis and Clark expedition had its start; its camp was recently reconstructed to honor the bicentennial of the Corps of Discovery, located “just across the highway from a Superfund toxic waste pile leaching heavy metal.” So it is, Lambrecht dourly notes, that America’s great river road to the west has its beginning and ending in pollution, a situation not likely to improve during what he unhesitatingly depicts as an environment-destroying presidential administration headed by men who somehow turned Missouri from blue state to red over a mere four years—but four years marked by increasing controversy over how to maintain and restore the river, and by lawsuits protecting species that, it seems, many Missourians were glad to do without. Lambrecht offers a strong if somewhat depressing account of the losses sustained not only by the river but also by the environmentalists committed to protecting it, and he hints that darker times may be ahead as states within the drainage wage ever-harder battles for control of ever-larger shares of water, North Dakota being a case in point.

A lucid, welcome work of environmental investigation and—though Lambrecht, ever the journalist, protests otherwise—advocacy, worthy of a place alongside Philip Fradkin’s A River No More, Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert and other modern treatises on the destruction of America’s waters.

Pub Date: April 18, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-32783-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2005

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Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a...

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An inspired, beautiful and absorbing account of a woman battling grief—with a goshawk.

Following the sudden death of her father, Macdonald (History and Philosophy/Cambridge Univ.; Falcon, 2006, etc.) tried staving off deep depression with a unique form of personal therapy: the purchase and training of an English goshawk, which she named Mabel. Although a trained falconer, the author chose a raptor both unfamiliar and unpredictable, a creature of mad confidence that became a means of working against madness. “The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life,” she writes. As a devotee of birds of prey since girlhood, Macdonald knew the legends and the literature, particularly the cautionary example of The Once and Future King author T.H. White, whose 1951 book The Goshawk details his own painful battle to master his title subject. Macdonald dramatically parallels her own story with White’s, achieving a remarkable imaginative sympathy with the writer, a lonely, tormented homosexual fighting his own sadomasochistic demons. Even as she was learning from White’s mistakes, she found herself very much in his shoes, watching her life fall apart as the painfully slow bonding process with Mabel took over. Just how much do animals and humans have in common? The more Macdonald got to know her, the more Mabel confounded her notions about what the species was supposed to represent. Is a hawk a symbol of might or independence, or is that just our attempt to remake the animal world in our own image? Writing with breathless urgency that only rarely skirts the melodramatic, Macdonald broadens her scope well beyond herself to focus on the antagonism between people and the environment.

Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a classic in either genre.

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0802123411

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.


A neurobiologist reveals the interconnectedness of the natural world through stories of plant migration.

In this slim but well-packed book, Mancuso (Plant Science/Univ. of Florence; The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior, 2018, etc.) presents an illuminating and surprisingly lively study of plant life. He smoothly balances expansive historical exploration with recent scientific research through stories of how various plant species are capable of migrating to locations throughout the world by means of air, water, and even via animals. They often continue to thrive in spite of dire obstacles and environments. One example is the response of plants following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Three decades later, the abandoned “Exclusion Zone” is now entirely covered by an enormous assortment of thriving plants. Mancuso also tracks the journeys of several species that might be regarded as invasive. “Why…do we insist on labeling as ‘invasive’ all those plants that, with great success, have managed to occupy new territories?” asks the author. “On a closer look, the invasive plants of today are the native flora of the future, just as the invasive species of the past are a fundamental part of our ecosystem today.” Throughout, Mancuso persuasively articulates why an understanding and appreciation of how nature is interconnected is vital to the future of our planet. “In nature everything is connected,” he writes. “This simple law that humans don’t seem to understand has a corollary: the extinction of a species, besides being a calamity in and of itself, has unforeseeable consequences for the system to which the species belongs.” The book is not without flaws. The loosely imagined watercolor renderings are vague and fail to effectively complement Mancuso’s richly descriptive prose or satisfy readers’ curiosity. Even without actual photos and maps, it would have been beneficial to readers to include more finely detailed plant and map renderings.

An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63542-991-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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