...Belleville poignantly reveals how the words of the old Joni Mitchell song have become a grim reality in central Florida, as his traditional Cracker home and rural neighborhood give way to suburban strip malls. -- Library Journal
...Is easy to understand because the title says it all...tells not only Belleville's story, but [reader's] as well. -- Lakeland Ledger, March 7, 2006
...report[s] and write[s] persuasively about the seemingly endless march of development and the poignant trade-offs involved... -- Charleston Post and Courier, April 23, 2006
Belleville...makes the case there is still beauty and wonder in the Sunshine state... -- Folio Weekly
Chronicles the destruction near [Belleville's] home and surrounding wilderness areas [and] the historical transformation of the area... -- Grist Magazine blog, March 24, 2006
For those who love old Florida, this is a profoundly melancholy book. Read it and weep. -- Boca Raton News, March 17, 2006
The title says it all. -- Tampa Tribune, March 30, 2006
Uncontrolled development is an issue not just for the Sunshine State but for America as a whole. -- Library Journal, December 2006
reads like poetry and feels like a prayer. -- Orlando Weekly, March 30, 2006
As development threatens his very sense of place, an award-winning nature writer finds hope in the rediscovery and appreciation of his historic Cracker farmhouse.
“Bill Belleville writes gorgeously and straight from the heart. This is a compelling and insightful book, and it's impossible to read it without feeling sadness, outrage and awe.
--Carl Hiaasen, author of Hoot, Skinny Dip, and Tourist Season
“Bill Belleville writes about the old Florida, the real Florida, like a poet or maybe a preacherman--certainly a prophet. He's up there with Marjorie Stoneman Douglas and William Bartram, a chronicler of the green and blue glories of the palmetto scrub, the springs and the woods. Best of all, he's righteously angry about how the place Bartram called "a glorious apartment in the sovereign palace of the Creator" is being wrecked in the name of "progress." But as long as Belleville keeps turning out exquisite, moving and beautiful books like this, there may just be hope.” --Diane Roberts, author of Dream State: Eight Generations Of Swamp Lawyers, Conquistadors, Confederate Daughters, Banana Republicans And Other Florida Wildlife
“An eloquent and bittersweet goodbye to Florida.”--Jeff Klinkenberg, author of Seasons of Real Florida (UPF, 2004)
“A work soaked in the shadow of change. . . . An important book in the personal history of a fast-changing state.”--John Lane, author of Waist Deep in Black Water
Losing It All to Sprawl is the poignant chronicle of award-winning nature writer Bill Belleville and how he came to understand and love his historic Cracker farmhouse and “relic” neighborhood in central Florida, even as it was all wiped out from under him. Belleville’s narrative is eloquent, informed, and impassioned, a saga in which tractors and backhoes trample through the woods next to his home in order to build the backbone of Florida sprawl—the mall.
As heavy machinery encircles Belleville and his community--the noise growing louder and closer, displacing everything Belleville has called home for the past fifteen years--he tells a story that is much older, 10,000 years older. The story stretches back to the Timucua and the Mayaca living in harmony with Florida’s environment; the conquistadors who expected much from, but also feared, this “land of flowers”; the turn-of-the-century tourists “modernizing” and “climatizing” the state; the original Cracker families who lived in Belleville’s farmhouse. In stark contrast to this millennia-long transformation is the whiplash of unbridled growth and development that threatens the nearby wilderness of the Wekiva River system, consuming Belleville’s home and, ultimately, his very sense of place.
In Florida, one of the nation’s fastest growing states (and where local and state governments encourage growth), balancing use with preservation is an uphill battle. Sprawl spreads into the countryside, consuming not just natural lands but Old Florida neighborhoods and their unique history. In Losing It All to Sprawl, Belleville accounts for the impacts—social, political, natural, personal—that a community in the crosshairs of unsustainable growth ultimately must bear, but he also offers Floridians, and anyone facing the blight of urban confusion, the hope that can be found in the rediscovery and appreciation of the natural landscape.
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