THROUGH ANIMALS' EYES

TRUE STORIES FROM A WILDLIFE SANCTUARY

Inmate stories from an animal rescue sanctuary, heartening but also scolding and righteous, from sanctuary director Cuny. Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, founded in Texas 20 years ago by Cuny, tends for and hopefully returns to the wild “injured, orphaned, abused and displaced wild animals.” If the injuries are severe enough, the animals stay at the sanctuary for the rest of their lives. It is a rare and profoundly humanitarian operation, and one certainly deserving of our appreciation. Cuny includes here 31 vignettes of animals or animal groups that have found their way, for the short or long term, to the sanctuary. They are almost all animals victimized by human malfeasance, with Cuny charging in to save the creature and the day. Of the 5,000 animals the sanctuary ministers to annually, a few are exotics—macaques and bobcats and mountain lions—but by far the greatest number are raccoons, ducks, birds, fox, deer, coyote, even mice; all are welcome, from squirrel to timber wolf. All have a story, of being tormented in roadside zoos, caught in steel-jaw traps and fishing lines, rescues from the trade in unusual animals and from research institutions; and all exhibit a wonderful will to live. Unfortunately, Cuny’s writing is schmaltzy and frequently over the top, as when she refers to one cat as “this beautiful animal, this precious, mysterious, secretive, misunderstood, irreplaceable and majestic cat.” Even worse, her tone exudes a pious superiority (“I was willing to do whatever it took”; “I returned faithfully each night”); it isn’t long before readers inexplicably begins to sense a guilty finger being pointed in their direction. There is an annoying aura of self-promotion at play, which detracts from the good deeds and alienates those who otherwise might have been inspired by the sanctuary’s achievements. (88 b&w photos, not seen) (Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club selection)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 1-57441-062-8

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Univ. of North Texas Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1998

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Critics Circle Winner

LAB GIRL

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

HORIZON

Distinguished natural history writer and explorer Lopez (Outside, 2014, etc.) builds a winning memoir around books, voyages, and biological and anthropological observations.

“Traveling, despite the technological innovations that have brought cultural homogenization to much of the world, helps the curious and attentive itinerant understand how deep the notion goes that one place is never actually like another.” So writes the author, who has made a long career of visiting remote venues such as Antarctica, Greenland, and the lesser known of the Galápagos Islands. From these travels he has extracted truths about the world, such as the fact that places differ as widely as the people who live in them. Even when traveling with scientists from his own culture, Lopez finds differences of perception. On an Arctic island called Skraeling, for instance, he observes that if he and the biologists he is walking with were to encounter a grizzly feeding on a caribou, he would focus on the bear, the scientists on the whole gestalt of bear, caribou, environment; if a native of the place were along, the story would deepen beyond the immediate event, for those who possess Indigenous ways of knowledge, “unlike me…felt no immediate need to resolve it into meaning.” The author’s chapter on talismans—objects taken from his travels, such as “a fist-size piece of raven-black dolerite”—is among the best things he has written. But there are plentiful gems throughout the looping narrative, its episodes constructed from adventures over eight decades: trying to work out a bit of science as a teenager while huddled under the Ponte Vecchio after just having seen Botticelli’s Venus; admiring a swimmer as a septuagenarian while remembering the John Steinbeck whom he’d met as a schoolboy; gazing into the surf over many years’ worth of trips to Cape Foulweather, an Oregon headland named by Capt. James Cook, of whom he writes, achingly, “we no longer seem to be sailing in a time of fixed stars, of accurate chronometers, and of reliable routes.”

Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

Pub Date: March 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-394-58582-6

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more