America s national parks are breathing spaces in a world in which such spaces are steadily disappearing, which is why more than 300 million people visit the parks each year. Now Terry Tempest Williams, the author of the environmental classic Refuge and the beloved memoir When Women Were Birds , returns with The Hour of Land , a literary celebration of our national parks, an exploration of what they mean to us and what we mean to them.Read more...
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America s national parks are breathing spaces in a world in which such spaces are steadily disappearing, which is why more than 300 million people visit the parks each year. Now Terry Tempest Williams, the author of the environmental classic Refuge and the beloved memoir When Women Were Birds, returns with The Hour of Land, a literary celebration of our national parks, an exploration of what they mean to us and what we mean to them.
From the Grand Tetons in Wyoming to Acadia in Maine to Big Bend in Texas and more, Williams creates a series of lyrical portraits that illuminate the unique grandeur of each place while delving into what it means to shape a landscape with its own evolutionary history into something of our own making. Part memoir, part natural history, and part social critique, The Hour of Land is a meditation and a manifesto on why wild lands matter to the soul of America."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-04-25
- Reviewer: Staff
Williams (When Women Were Birds), a longtime environmental activist, adds a meditative element to memoir as she shares her abiding love for America’s open spaces. She grew up in Utah, home to five national parks and seven national monuments, and writes of places such as the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, Big Bend National Park in Texas, and Glacier National Park in Montana. Some parks are new to Williams, and others are deeply familiar: Williams’s great-grandfather introduced Grand Teton National Park to his son, who introduced it to his sons, who in turn introduced it to her. Chapters on Big Bend and the Gulf Coast give Williams opportunities to address political and environmental issues, particularly calls for a wall to separate the U.S. from Mexico. “The 118-mile border that Big Bend National Park shares with Mexico would be closed not only to humans,” but to the “movement and migration” of an array of species that “have no understanding of man-made borders,” she writes. Similarly, her discussion of the Gulf Islands National Seashore centers on BP and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In passionate and insightful prose, Williams celebrates the beauty of the American landscape while reinforcing the necessity of responsible stewardship. Illus. Agency: Brandt & Hochman Literary. (June)
A poetic exploration of our National Parks
In this gorgeous collection of 12 essays, published to mark the centennial of the National Park Service, Terry Tempest Williams provides a poetic and searing portrait of the land and, by extension, of America itself.
Philanthropists loom large in the history of our national parks and Williams draws them in compelling detail: Teddy Roosevelt riding out to North Dakota wearing spurs he bought at Tiffany’s, Laurance Rockefeller donating his family’s ranch to Grand Teton National Park and having every object meticulously cataloged (including the positions of ashtrays) so the ranch could be recreated later. She describes the difficult test that would-be tour guides in Gettysburg must take (since 2012, only two have passed). There’s the pleasure of journalism, the unexpected detail that never disappoints, the feeling of seeing something from an inside angle. But there’s poetry, too.
The intimate moments Williams experiences in these parks, often accompanied by beautiful photography, speak to the reader—what it’s like to witness the body of a bison eaten by other animals on the plain; what kind of lichen grows on the chilly tundra; what oil-soaked sand feels like between the toes. “To bear witness is not a passive act,” she writes.
Williams’ reverent eyes catalog how humans have impacted the wilderness, but The Hour of Land is a hopeful book. “We are slowly returning to the hour of land,” she writes, “where our human presence can take a side step and respect the integrity of the place itself.”