Honorable Mention,”Wild Card” Category, SF Book Fest 2015.
Fall 2014 Recommended List-Santa Cruz, CA Bookshop.
Main Category: Literary Fiction- Contemporary–Comic-drama.
Sub-Categories: Environmental/Ecology, Birds, Nature, Humor, Political/Sociological, Women, Romance, Divorce, Coming of Age, Western Travel, California.
Current edition: June 2014 — ISBN(s): print: 978-1-4675-9099-0 / digital e-book 978-1-4951-1775-6 — 500 pages
Eco-fiction. Eco-political fiction. “Comedic-drama” in the vein of Ed Abbey meets meets Tom Robbins meets John Irving meets T.C. Boyle meets Vine Deloria meets Pam Houston meets Barbara Kingsolver while Rachel Carson birdwatches in the front yard. In the back drop drop drop is reference to the great music of the time including The Talking Heads, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, and well, better keep KD Lang for the wife.
Think of it as a chronicle of the American environmental movement circa late 1970’s-80’s through the eyes of an innocent but partying young country girl who has suppressed so much while waiting for her working class guy to get a clue…
It’s ‘accidentally’ gazing at an eastern bluebird that cracks the thin veneer of Ellowyn Kelsey’s life, finally jolting her out of a marriage-induced lobotomy to the realization that the world doesn’t end at her skin. Life bashes her around a bit which releases her intellectual tendencies, pissing off her rural friends–“Drink Another Beer! Enjoy the Barbecue! Lighten Up!”
The more interested she becomes in nature, political causes, maybe attending college, i.e. adventuring out of the womb of her rural Michigan, the more maligned she feels from her family and friends who start calling her an “environmentalist”, a freak–including Patty, her life-long best friend. Will their friendship survive all the changes (they are both going through)?
Of course, for those of us who love the land of our country, at some point, like Ellie, we dare to question the tendency of our own species to bulldoze over the planet, and there was a lot of this going on at the time. By questioning this, Ellie is further transformed as she dives deeper into the world of ecology; then she meets Kate, one of the first female biologists hired to work for the state of Michigan. Kate has spent her life trying to “save the environment” but it hasn’t worked out too well not to mention all the spontaneous ‘massages’ from her male co-workers. Ellie is assigned to Kate, Kate’s last intern before her well-deserved retirement; but nobody likes Kate anymore. Kate’s always pissed off. Who wants to end up like her?
Adding to the turmoil are colossal losses Ellie has little idea how to deal with. She leaves “Shake” to undertake some kind of pilgrimage, a subconscious attempt to heal herself but her feeling of alienation does not abate simply because she changes her geography. Her taking to the road makes for a very ‘biodiverse’ set of experiences, from roaming spirits in the desert, gnatcatchers in California, accidental crusades against development, ascending tufas at Mono Lake courtesy of a Miwok-Paiute BLM park ranger, to hoodoos and dancing cowboys in Wyoming, not to mention those sympathetic truckers on I-8O. In addition to being humorous, birds and ecological science are woven throughout the novel so you may just learn something.
The novel is based on the real-life experiences of Virginia who has been a professional field biologist for over 20 years. Virginia grew up in Ohio where she watched everything around her get bulldozed out of existence. She did the trip west, the one we all do sooner or later, only to see the same thing happening in the west.
Are we at a point now where it’s too late and denial is our only (perceived) protection?