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Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place

by Terry Tempest Williams

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9731816,436 (4.13)45
In the spring of 1983 Terry Tempest Williams learned that her mother was dying of cancer. That same season, The Great Salt Lake began to rise to record heights, threatening the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and the herons, owls, and snowy egrets that Williams, a poet and naturalist, had come to gauge her life by. One event was nature at its most random, the other a by-product of rogue technology: Terry's mother, and Terry herself, had been exposed to the fallout of atomic bomb tests in the 1950s. As it interweaves these narratives of dying and accommodation, Refuge transforms tragedy into a document of renewal and spiritual grace, resulting in a work that has become a classic.… (more)
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Beautiful, soulful meditation on death, natute and the natural cycles of life. It's not as tight or elegant as TTW's later books as she was growing into herself as a writer still but you can already see the sublime genius she became at work here. ( )
  Smokler | Jan 3, 2021 |
I'm torn about this. I do think Williams writes well, and I like her descriptions of Great Salt Lake and its history and, especially, bird life. I'm just a bit torn by the integration of the Great Salt Lake story with the story of her mother dying of cancer. It's a newish kind of memoir and I'm not altogether comfortable with it, although I think I get it. As I work my way through my thoughts I recognize that if you are a writer and you are going through a difficult time and you have a connection to something natural, you might find solace there and you might want to write about it. And that is what she did. As birds found refuge, so did she.

We are also treated to some aspects of her religion - she is a member of the LDS church. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
Evan returned to Swathmore today ( )
  rondorn | Apr 13, 2020 |
We just moved to Utah from New York, which is quite a culture shock. This was a great book to help us understand our new home. Rich descriptions of the Lake and the birds that pass through, plus many reflections on Mormon history and culture. My father recently passed away after a long decline, and my mother has had a few serious medical episodes. The cancer illnesses in this book aren't the same as what has happened in our family, but the descriptions ring quite true.
1 vote kukulaj | May 10, 2018 |
This book has two themes, decades long observations of relatives getting and dying of cancer, and decades long observation of the changes in the bird, animal, and plant life at Great Salk Lake Utah. In the first half of the book the emphasis is on the biota of the lake shores and Islands. In the second half it incrementaly shifts to an emphasis on the cancers killing relatives and those living in that region. In the latter part, the author deals with how we care for dying cancer victims, then on the cause of so much local cancer. She also shows how the changes in the biota of the lake and its shores is equal parts natural changes and human manipulation of the lake. At the end of the book the human manipulation of the lake merges with the increased cancer in the people there as well as the biota changes at the lake.
This is an in-depth treatment of the inter-relationships between the natural world and human influence.
The reader is left with a feeling of responsibility to look at the overall affect of any human changes in the landscape, city planning, flood control, hazardous waste site locations, containment of hazardous sobstances, and generally best use planning for areas. These decisions have lasting impact on those living in the area. ( )
  billsearth | Aug 16, 2016 |
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For Diane Dixon Tempest who understood nature as refuge
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In the spring of 1983 Terry Tempest Williams learned that her mother was dying of cancer. That same season, The Great Salt Lake began to rise to record heights, threatening the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and the herons, owls, and snowy egrets that Williams, a poet and naturalist, had come to gauge her life by. One event was nature at its most random, the other a by-product of rogue technology: Terry's mother, and Terry herself, had been exposed to the fallout of atomic bomb tests in the 1950s. As it interweaves these narratives of dying and accommodation, Refuge transforms tragedy into a document of renewal and spiritual grace, resulting in a work that has become a classic.

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