Kuipers (Operation Bite Back: Rod Coronado's War to Save American Wilderness, 2009, etc.) returns with a frank, personal, and sometimes-painful account of his fractured family.
The author, who has written about environmental issues for decades, tells a grim but ultimately uplifting story about his family, mostly his father, a serial adulterer in his first marriage but a man whom his three sons loved (despite his dominant personality), a man who eventually, writes Kuipers, became a responsible adult. We learn about his father’s history as well as his two brothers, one of whom has long battled psychological issues. We learn about the women in these men’s lives (more than one divorce) and about their children. But the dominating, unifying factor in their experiences is hunting. Kuipers is quick to assure us—and show us—that they are not mere trophy hunters but rather ecological ones. They eat what they kill, and they kill, it seems, respectfully. (In one scene, the author speaks to a buck he has just shot.) The author’s father believed that if he and his sons restored an old Michigan hunting camp he bought, it would improve their lives—and he was right. Year after year, they have planted, cultivated, and tenderly cared for the land, knowing that doing so would bring back the wildlife. Although the men often bickered and battled verbally with one another, they all eventually recognized the significance of what they created: unity and family. Kuipers alludes often to other writers and thinkers—from ecological scientists and eco-humanists to poets W.S. Merwin and Wendell Berry—and if he sometimes waxes a little spiritual/mystical, it is the magic of the land that animates him.
Lushly detailed and full of eco-devotion, this candid narrative has much to say about human beings bearing burdens, coping, and aiding one another.