A tale of a species on life support and the ramifications for people, nature, and place.
While Cook’s (The Mushroom Hunters, 2014, etc.) earliest memories of salmon stem from his New England childhood, he first encountered them in the wild during summer swims in Oregon's Rogue River. He was in his early 20s and had moved across the country to take care of a remote homestead in the mountains. Drawn to the wild as a source of rejuvenation and sustenance, the author learned to fish for salmon and to ponder their relationship to people and place. Intoxicated, he began pulling at a thread that would take him on a journey across the Pacific Northwest, including stops at Seattle’s Pike Place Market, the country’s first sustainable sushi restaurant, a state forestry meeting, a First Foods ceremony, fish hatcheries, dammed rivers, and gill-netting operations. Cook was guided along the way by a diverse, colorful cast of characters, including ecologists, conservationists, activists, chefs, restaurateurs, commercial fishermen, and others, each sharing their stories, politics, passions, and philosophies on the state of the world and pathways for the future. Exposing striking human-salmon parallels, these stories tell of settlement and cultural clashes, of life cycles and migrations, of deforestation and industrial agriculture, of racism and gentrification, and Cook skillfully illustrates the interconnectedness of it all. Seeking the wild in a landscape fraught with man-made alteration and annihilation, the author interrogates the nature of wildness, posing urgent, provocative questions. Can we disentangle human and natural landscapes? Is it possible to restore nature? Can humans move from markets and mitigation to reconciliation with nature and with each other? If we know better, will we do better? How might we imagine new ways of living and being in the world?
Blurring boundaries and complicating the oversimplified, Cook provides a moving, artfully layered story of strength and vulnerability, offering glimpses of hope for growing humility and reverence and for shifting human-nature relationships.