Book Review: The Hour of Land

With great power comes great responsibility. ~ Stan Lee (and many other sources; choose your favorite).

Maybe the best way for you to experience this book is if a radioactive spider, filled with the knowledge of it, were to crawl out of a port on the device in your hands and bite you, bestowing on you the full experience of The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams.

Why? If I were to tell you that the book is beautifully written, jam-packed with fascinating, true stories and punctuated by gorgeous, reproduced photographs, but that it’s also almost 400 pages long (some of which are achingly depressing if you love national parks, like I do, resulting in nearly two years of starts and stops to get me through the tome), and that by the end of reading it you will almost certainly have an awakened (or reawakened) social conscience, would you even pick it up?

Point being, Spider-Man didn’t have to choose to accept his abilities, he had to choose how to use them (over and over again). One huge decision avoided, followed by hundreds of smaller decisions required.

Let’s try this an easier way. If you’d like to be versed in The Hour of Land, go ahead and touch the X:

Kidding! You can’t absorb a book through your fingertip, silly! (Exception: those who know Braille.)

Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. ~ Richard M. Sherman

Each chapter of The Hour of Land is (basically) comprised of Terry and her carefully selected companions on visits to various national parks and monuments.

The choice of companion brings a unique perspective to each park, but Terry’s voice remains the most personal point of view throughout, with every chapter taking on a new structure (letters, poetry, anecdotes, etc). Also, when she visits matters. Her visits aren’t random, they are either intentional or fortuitous.

Examples: Glacier National Park, during the devastating Trapper Fire; Gulf Islands National Seashore, in the weeks following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; Gettysburg National Military Park, witnessing multiple re-enactments over the course of a year; Alcatraz Island, experiencing an art exhibit.

Terry unfolds each park through multiple points of view, but also within context of history, politics, current events, using whatever broadens the discussion, but always keeping it relevant, and maintaining a masterful balance in tone.

Like Mary Poppins, Terry makes the medicine palatable, but like a horse led to water, only you can choose to drink:

Perhaps this is what our national parks holds for us: stories, of who we have been and who we might become — a reminder that as human beings our histories harbor both darkness and light. ~ Terry Tempest Williams, The Hour of Land


Previous posts:

Book Review: What’s the Difference?

Book Review: The Walk West

2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Hour of Land

    • Awesome! Good for you, Sarah!

      btw – I’m going to change my middle name to Tempest now (even though it sounds like a mother’s maiden name to me).

      Or maybe Turbo. Would you read my books if my middle name was Turbo? If not, no worries. Turbo would be a good dog’s name…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s