Terry Tempest Williams has written a beautiful, brooding, and hopeful book about the enduring links between family, change, loss, and the natural world. A native of Utah, she has served as Naturalist-in-Residence at the Utah Museum of Natural History. Her other works, including Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert and An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field, have also explored the spirituality of place.
During a seven-year period, Williams is besieged by forces of death and destruction. The Great Salt Lake floods the fragile wetlands in northern Utah and damages her favorite spot on Earth the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Then her mother is afflicted with ovarian cancer and her grandmother succumbs to old age. As these women who nurtured her now rely on her to see them through death, the author looks to the wilderness and its teachers for strength and renewal.
The lessons of letting go do not come easy but Williams sallies into the desert and the birds offer her solace. When she realizes that her mother's death and the deaths of six other women in the family stem from exposure to atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons, she must take a moral stand.
Through the process of absorbing so much change, Williams forges a new self-reliance, a keen appreciation of family ties, faith in a female Holy Spirit, and renewal of her soul in communion with the natural world. This is a book that will stay with you long after your first reading of it. It is one of the most spiritually literate books published in the 1990s.