Novelist Malarkey (Resurrection, 2006, etc.) turns to nonfiction in this account of a single-minded cousin who’s bent on saving salmon and their habitat from humankind.
Guido Rahr was always a little odd, writes the author. As a very young child, for instance, “he had an aversion to reading, and to any book that didn’t involve pictures of reptiles.” He was diagnosed as dyslexic but, after memorizing a vast academic tome on North American reptilia, overcame it—and, though never particularly numerate, he went on to devour whole libraries of science writing while making it clear that he didn’t have much use for civilization. Yale wasn’t easy, though in an early encounter with the institution, he produced a faunal map that a visiting professor spirited away; other people weren’t easy, though he did find a “near perfect alignment” with a kindred spirit; nothing came easily to Rahr except the desire to slip away into the woods and wetlands and commune with nature. It seems almost inevitable, then, that he should have cast his lot with the wild. In this eminently inspirational story, Malarkey chronicles how his battle settled on the anadromous salmon and the places where it was most in danger of disappearing. The contours of this battle shift to the north and west as the story progresses, crossing the Bering Sea to Kamchatka, and encompass unlikely alliances with oligarchs such as the steel magnate Alexander Abramov, who, Malarkey writes, “conveyed the power of an apex predator” while scorning the thought that things like treaties and regulations mean anything to the commercial fisheries that seem bent on reducing the salmon to a memory. Yet Abramov joined in, spending $45 million to remove poachers from a single wild river that now stands at the heart of the work of Rahr’s Wild Salmon Center—work, Malarkey writes, that has hinged on “raising the issue of conservation above geopolitics.”
A vigorously told story of environmental activism that has succeeded despite the odds and an engaging journey into some of the planet’s wilder places.