At once funny and moving—a provocative call for greater involvement with the natural world channeled through a riveting...

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BAYSHORE SUMMER

FINDING EDEN IN A MOST UNLIKELY PLACE

Compelling portrait of the not-so-lazy days of summer in an overlooked area of the Jersey shore.

In this second installment of his series exploring the seasons in different geographical zones of the United States, acclaimed nature writer and renowned birder Dunne (Prairie Spring: A Journey into a Heart of a Season, 2009, etc.) teams with his photographer wife Linda to capture the many wonders of land and sea surrounding their home in the vastly uncharted Delaware Bayshore region of New Jersey. With characteristic sass and occasional pointed commentary, the author captivatingly describes the many adventures he undertook from Memorial through Labor Day while experiencing firsthand the varied riches offered by his own neighborhood: birding with his wife; fishing and crabbing with local fisherman; chasing poachers with Cumberland County game wardens; picking tomatoes with undocumented workers; baling salt hay with native farmers; star- and comet-gazing by himself in the wee hours of an August morning. “One of my reasons for writing this book,” he writes, “was to try to portray and preserve something of the unique and dwindling heritage of this little-known region.” His focus on historical preservation and environmental conservation dominates the narrative, but the compact book also sports interesting trivia about the nation’s fifth-smallest state and humorous historical factoids. These range from the Supreme Court’s 1893 decision rendering the tomato a vegetable for taxation purposes, even though it is a “taxonomically certain berry,” to a chapter supporting the reasoning behind Dunne’s decision, made in July 1978, never to wear shorts again (the greenhead fly had a lot to do with it).

At once funny and moving—a provocative call for greater involvement with the natural world channeled through a riveting portrait of the author’s cherished home region.

Pub Date: July 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-19563-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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

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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

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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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  • Kirkus Prize
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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

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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