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Finding Beauty in a Broken World (Vintage) Paperback


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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375725199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375725197
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #219,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Williams (The Open Space of Democracy) travels to Ravenna, Italy, a town famous for its ancient mosaics, to learn a new language with my hands. Back home in Utah, Williams views the lives of a clan of endangered prairie dogs—a species essential to the ecological mosaic of the grasslands and the creators of the most sophisticated animal language decoded so far—through the rules of Italian mosaics. After intimate study of a prairie dog town at Bryce Canyon, her visit to 19th-century prairie dog specimens at the American Museum of Natural History segues, dreamlike, to a glass case of bones from the genocide in Rwanda, where Williams, overwhelmed by the death of her brother but knowing that her own spiritual evolution depended upon it, travels with artist Lily Yeh, who understands mosaic as taking that which is broken and creating something whole, to build a memorial with genocide survivors. The book, itself a skillful, nuanced mosaic (a conversation between what is broken... a conversation with light, with color, with form) uses this way of thinking about the world to convincingly make the connection between racism and specism and sensitively argues for respect for life in all its myriad forms. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Ecologist and writer Williams composes gracefully structured inquiries lush with unexpected and revelatory correspondences. In her most far-reaching and profoundly clarifying work to date, Williams considers the complex beauty of brokenness and the redemptive art of creating wholeness from fragments in a triptych of explorations. She begins in a mosaics workshop in Ravenna, Italy, and then brings the understanding gleaned from working with tesserae to her day-by-day observations of a beleaguered Utah prairie dog town. Williams marvels over this tunnel-building, highly communicative species and dubs them “prayer dogs” for their habit of standing and watching the sunset. Prairie dogs are crucial to the biodiversity of the grassland ecosystem, a living mosaic, yet they have been brutally massacred and driven to the brink of extinction. The story of her brother’s death entwines with Williams’ riveting account of her trip to Rwanda with visionary artist Lily Yeh to help create a genocide memorial. Brokenhearted in this land of bones and sorrow, Williams gathers shattering stories of death and resilience with the help of an extraordinary survivor who becomes her son, bearing witness to the horror of neighbors slaughtering neighbors in an attempted annihilation. Scientific in her exactitude, compassionate in her receptivity, and rhapsodic in expression, Williams has constructed a beautiful mosaic of loss and renewal that affirms, with striking lucidity, the need for reverence for all of life. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

She is the award-winning author of Leap, An Unspoken Hunger, Refuge & most recently Red - A Desert Reader. She lives in Castle Valley, Utah.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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The book was disjointed and in need of a stronger editor.
Catherine
I like everything that Terry Tempest Williams has written, that I've read, so I was curious how she was going to tie the contents of the book together.
Carol A. Reece
"A mosaic," Tempest Williams writes at the beginning of the book, "is a conversation between what is broken."
Story Circle Book Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Yours Truly VINE VOICE on October 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Reading anything by Terry Tempest Williams, you know you're in the hands of a deeply moral writer. Her "Refuge" is one of my favorite books, linking the shrinking of the Great Salt Lake and its effects on its flora and fauna to the slow death of her mother from cancer induced by exposure to radiation.

She attempts something similar here, using brutal and inhumane attempts to kill off the prairie dogs of the plains and high desert as a counterpoint to the heinous war between Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda, which she visits after the media have moved on. The image she uses to portray life in the global 21st century is of mosaics, which she studied in Italy and takes with her to Africa. This work is less successful than Refuge, I think, because the magnitude of suffering she conveys after speaking with survivors of the Rwandan genocide is so overpowering. Another writer might have limited a book to that single topic, but Williams, a trained naturalist, is more ambitious; she wants to draw us into the interdependent web of life that covers the planet.

Cancer takes another of Williams' family members here, but the loss is balanced by a blessing that Williams and her husband, Brooke, thought they had foregone when they elected not to have children. (No, she didn't adopt a baby like some people with higher profiles.) Even if she goes on a bit too long about those cute prairie dogs (I skipped 20 pages), she makes the point eloquently that all life is fragile and that we must pay close attention to its value.

You might get the impression from reviews that Williams is sentimental. Quite the opposite, her observations of science and of life's brutality lend her work the edge that must have frightened the superintendent of Bryce Canyon into saying she wasn't welcome there. She went anyway, and we should be glad she's about in the world.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on October 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book - a deeply personal yet soulful, a poet's journey into the world. Only a writer like TTW could have written something so intuitively timed for this day and age because she is utterly tuned into the planet's pace (see her very important OPEN SPACE OF DEMOCRACY). It is the gift of this writer to force us to slow down, to absorb peace and the consequences of violence in equal measure and to take stock of our own values. It is impossible not to read her work without a soul's level. Read this and be transformed.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Westword on November 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a magical book....from Italy to Bryce Canyon to Rwanda...all along the path Terry took following her own muse, the same that took her to Spain (LEAP) and to Great Salt Lake (Refuge). This time her path led her to Louis Gakumba, a young Rwandan man, now living in Utah thanks to this book and Terry's inquiry. This book is the real thing. I couldn't get enough of it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mariannekmilks on September 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is at the highest end of my bookshelf, sharing space with only the greatest. I was immersed from the moment I started reading. I am biased in that I know and deeply love Ravenna. I soon discovered how even, in Terry's writing style, she used mosaics within her words and fragments which, to me, made it even more powerful. The messages to see, better observe and appreciate the restoration of broken images, no matter how long ago or how recent they had been created and destroyed. To focus that what is broken can always be healed as long as we see what is there, not what we wish but what we learn to see. And as long as we are willing to look at each fragment with care of not only the heart, but mind and prior knowledge, there is hope.
The middle section about the prairy dogs I found interesting for a while (I love those little creatures), then became utterly bored. I saw the picture but was finished. I could not understand the style. I didn't bother completing it.
Rwanda was an experience that I find doubtful for anyone to forget. Again: detail for feelings, society and societal relationships were awe-inspiring. It's history brought tears to my eyes many times. The beauty of the mosaic memorial, intertwined with the mosaics of the Rwandan people's healing lives was also healing to me. Incredible in so many aspects.

Then I realized I had to go back to the little guys out west. It was then that I understood the writing style (somewhat scientific as opposed to narrative). The picture is only too clear, and so fitting in the setting of the book.
Bravo, Terry. I feel privileged to have become part of that world. I am also going to Ravenna to take the class! It will have yet a different meaning!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Carol A. Reece on May 15, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I like everything that Terry Tempest Williams has written, that I've read, so I was curious how she was going to tie the contents of the book together. This was another winner, as far as I'm concerned. The section where ahe is observing the prairie dogs is just so interesting, I could have read a whole book about that. This is just another fabulous book written by one of the most talented "nature and/or conservation" writers of today.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By SarahDawn on April 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Finding Beauty in A Broken World is a beautifully written post-modern text. It is Terry Tempest William's reflections on three different areas of her life that all relate to each other under the overarching idea of mosaic. She defines a mosaic as something beautiful pieced together by broken pieces and fragments of something else. The novel opens with William's in Italy learning the art of mosaic from an expert. Working the old fashioned way, with chisel in hand, Williams has a profound experience as she creates something beautiful from something broken.
This concept translates to her life back in America and her passion for prairie dogs. As I read this book I was taken aback by the abrupt change. How can she transition from beautiful Italian mosaics and stained glass in gorgeous ancient churches to a biological tutorial on Prairie Dogs? She tells us all about the different kinds of prairie dogs, their origins and the great danger of extinction that they are facing.
Williams spent two weeks doing nothing but observing a prairie dog colony in Bryce Canyon, UT. A large portion of the text is comprised of her field notes. And her accounts of the colony are beautiful. She then travels to Rwanda where she experiences life after genocide. She and her team find beauty in this broken land and culture, and help a small village find the light that they had lost. The parallels drawn between the prairie dogs, Italy, and Rwanda are striking. This is an introspective text that moves slowly at time, but if you put in the effort this book is truly an experience in and of itself.
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