From Publishers Weekly
In this clouded memoir, Irvine, former development director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), pursues her tortuous trajectory from a loosely Mormon upbringing to strident environmental activism. Irvine writes from the fresh grief of her father's suicide: a fierce atheist with a Mormon pedigree, her father divorced her mother when Irvine was 10, drank heavily and gradually grew estranged from his family before shooting himself in the heart. With her mother and sister, Irvine grew up a Jack Mormon (one whose belief in the Church of the Latter Day Saints has lapsed), endured a brief marriage with a yuppie vegetarian and found true love with a lawyer named Herb, with whom she moved to San Juan County, Utah. As Irvine, a grant-proposal writer, and Herb both worked for the SUWA, their advocacy for public lands pitted them in uncomfortable opposition to the pro-development, cattle-friendly interests of their largely Mormon neighbors. Irvine structures her memoir cannily around the four eras of local Native American prehistoric culture (Lithic, Archaic, Basketmaker and Pueblo), each reflecting a period of migration and settlement in her own life. However, her work is filled with so much tertiary detail that emotional resonance is rare. Still, her views on wilderness preservation ring passionately and her research is sound. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* The Mormon ranchers of Utah’s red-rock country hate environmentalists as much as coyotes, and believe women belong at home with their children. As a wilderness advocate and renegade Mormon, Irvine is, therefore, apprehensive about living in contested San Juan County with her ardent public-lands-use attorney lover. As she hikes breathtakingly beautiful, ruins-studded canyons, she vividly imagines the lives of the long-vanished hunter-gatherers and contrasts their ways of being with ours. Bold and original in her thinking, candid and lyrical in expression, Irvine launches a penetrating critique of Mormon sovereignty, the persistent oppression of women, the longing to belong versus the need to be one’s self, and the environmental havoc wrought by cattle ranching, “extreme recreationists,” and the federally sanctioned, post-9/11 rush to extract fossil fuels from protected public lands. Haunted by her complicated heritage as a descendant of one of the original Mormon Saints as well as nonconformists––especially her grandmother Ada, an artist who found meaning in the desert’s mercurial beauty, and her father, who lived to hunt and died at his own hands––Irvine suspensefully chronicles the rancor and stress of advocacy work and a bewildering health crisis. Forthright and imaginative, sensitive and tough, Irvine joins red-rock heroes Edward Abbey and Terry Tempest Williams in breaking ranks and speaking up for the living world. --Donna Seaman