Louise de Kiriline Lawrence (1894-1992) was born into the Swedish aristocracy, joined the Red Cross in WWI, married a White Russian soldier in 1918, then, a widow, moved to rural Canada in 1927 where she was, first, a nurse (heading the team that cared for the Dionne quintuplets), then a science writer and naturalist. Making it her mission and her passion to “understand…how birds are,” and to present as closely as possible a sense of the world from their point of view rather than that of the human observer, she spent nearly 60 years compiling meticulous, daily reports on the avian life around her woodland Ontario home. These records—detailing appearance, behavior, and each species’ interactions with all facets of their environment—fed a steady stream of journal articles, both scholarly and popular, and award-winning books ranging from illustrated children’s stories to memoir, biography, and groundbreaking studies of individual bird species. Simonds, herself a versatile writer and devoted birder, has adopted her subject’s thorough and enthusiastic approach. Her beautifully written book is steeped in all of Lawrence’s writings—published and unpublished—as well as a deep familiarity with her beloved Loghouse woods.
Sánchez is an acclaimed Spanish poet and writer who focuses on rural life. She came to her vocation and her subject by way of her country upbringing, and, following the footsteps of her father and grandfather, is also a trained field veterinarian. But—wait: what about her mother and grandmother? What sort of work did they do? What stories did they tell? Showing they were more than merely “sisters of an only child”—that child being the family’s honored son—Sánchez’s powerful manifesto and example of the excavation of lives and traditions unjustly left to oblivion is written with careful attention to speech rhythms and without romanticizing a difficult existence, indulging in the nostalgia of paternalistic urban centers for small-town life, or “celebrating” strong and capable women for persevering despite deprivations. Her text is a testament both powerful and beautiful to the land and the living creatures—including human culture—it has nurtured and which, if we take the time to understand where our food comes from, will continue to sustain us through many generations to come.
Zuker’s urgent dispatches chronicle the myriad threats to the Amazon rainforest—extraction industries, the monocultures of soy and rice, political instability, climate change—and, through his deeply reported and compassionate portraits of Indigenous peoples, suggest how the destruction of this complex natural ecosystem negatively impacts all of humanity. These themes are treated especially powerfully in the moving title essay, which follows the plight of a whale stranded some 1000 miles from the Atlantic and the efforts of the riverside communities—which also face displacement—to save it. Zuker’s writing in this vital testimony to the ravages of capitalism and the escalation of threats to the Indigenous under Bolsonaro is often heartbreakingly beautiful, throwing into relief how an attack on nature is also an attack on the native peoples, who from time immemorial have known that “plants make worlds. They are creators of realities,” and have fostered “a true sphere of kinship with the vegetation around them.”