Four introspective, first-person memoirs from flora and fauna of the Earth as part of an ecologically minded call toward understanding the fragile web of life.
Amberg gives voices to a group of redwood trees on the Pacific Coast, a monarch butterfly migrating to Mexico, a female wolf navigating her family through an Arctic winter and a sperm whale evaluating his life as he floats through the ocean. Scientifically accurate details make it clear that the author has done his research on each species’ ethology and habitat. But since the author seems unwilling to simply let the stories’ beauty and harshness inspire readers into action, there’s no question about his message since each story is overburdened by explicit references to humanity’s evils. Mentions of redwoods who hear chain-saw rumblings “disrupting time’s deep rhythms” and monarchs finding their ash grove hewn feel relatively integrated into their stories, but the wolf’s confusion about a giant mechanical bird who gives birth to mammals that can remove their brightly colored fur—“Its earsplitting call is both incessant and monotonous. Its nest is unimaginable”—degenerates into an “othering” reminiscent of overcooked, turn-of-the-century anthropological essays. Elsewhere, the wise old whale rants about humans destroying the ocean, then preaches: “[T]he very ecocentrism that drives so much of your lunacy may now compel you to rescue our world.” Nevertheless, the nonhuman psychologies have an easy, natural flow and grace to them, and they often achieve a strong emotional impact despite the clumsiness of the activist assertions.
An inspiring call to action, though the straightforward chastisement can be mildly off-putting.