Useful reading for city slickers contemplating a move to their own home on the range.

YONDER

A PLACE IN MONTANA

A graceful spirit-of-place study, set in territory widely thought to belong to God.

Montana is a place where weary urbanites from both coasts come to find themselves—a modern development that is a source of much grief to longtime Montanans, who now have to wait for a stool at the local diner. Travel writer Heminway (African Journeys, not reviewed), a frequent visitor to Big Sky country, is well aware that one acquires true Montanan credentials only by tracing claim to the place over several generations, but that did not keep him from buying a little ranch (carved out of a larger ranch and onetime hippie commune) and sinking some Montana roots of his own. No instant cowboy, he thoughtfully reflects here on the harsh realities of the place: the deadly cold of winters that last for seven months, the desolate plains littered with hundred-year-old broken wagon axles, cattle skulls, and the ruins of homesteaders’ shacks, etc. Shrugging off the attendant bad vibes (for, he writes, “Montana had become my drug”), the author cheerfully attempts to become a good neighbor, only to have his efforts challenged at every turn by a particularly irascible rancher with whom, by story’s end, he has forged an uneasy détente sometimes bordering on friendship. Heminway’s reflections on the once wild but increasingly settled landscapes of Montana are well-crafted and often lyrical, with only a few false steps (mostly in the direction of lapsing into reverence whenever American Indians enter the scene). Although sometimes overawed by the beauty of his newfound nirvana, the author is always brought back to his senses by the hardened old-timers, who, without really meaning to, help him “penetrate the astonishing bond between landscape and people, and to understand how nothing, in the end, is perfect.”

Useful reading for city slickers contemplating a move to their own home on the range.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7922-7687-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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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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H IS FOR HAWK

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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