Book Review: Wild Things, Wild Places: Adventurous Tales of Wildlife and Conservation on Planet Earth
Part memoir, part call to action, Alexander's book makes an effective case for caring for our world
Reviewed by Jessi Cape, Fri., Nov. 4, 2016
Decades of Hollywood acting roles may have afforded Jane Alexander the opportunity to sustain a lifetime of adventures worth writing a book about, but it is her sincere dedication to wildlife conservation that propels the core of this lovely travelogue. What began as a childhood curiosity with sparrows evolved into a passionate desire to gulp information about every animal and its habitat, and ultimately sway public opinion toward the same. "When you fall hard for something, really fall in love, as I did with the birds," she writes, "the desire to protect it comes naturally."
Part memoir-style recollections of her incredible encounters with shamans and hyenas, part call-to-action by way of statistical research (she says scientists "are like prophets in the wilderness"), Alexander's book makes her effective case for caring. Perhaps Wild Things, Wild Places will appeal most to those who possess a somewhat vested interest in preventing a cataclysmic end of life on Earth, but regardless, the stories are entertaining enough to carry their own weight. Split into three sections, with individual chapters covering countries in every corner of the planet, the book shifts between casual, friendly storytelling and powerful, often unnerving truth bombs. Interestingly, Alexander boldly acknowledges her intentional use of capitalization to call attention to the importance of the world's many animal species, comparing the use of such grammatical effect to team names in sports stories.
The book's fiery spirit is best demonstrated in her own words: "We are the apex killer, the mammal that kills for revenge, for food, for land, for ideas, and for love. And for fun. No other creature is so versatile in killing. We have conquered the earth. But the earth is resilient. She has been around for four billion years, changing with each new onslaught, adapting to the vicissitudes of space and time, surviving chaos. The earth will survive. It is we humans who will not. And we will take down many living creatures with us. But not all. Some will survive to evolve and begin again."
Wild Things, Wild Places: Adventurous Tales of Wildlife and Conservation on Planet Earthby Jane Alexander
Alfred A. Knopf, Borzoi Books, 352 pp., $28.95
Jane Alexander will speak about Wild Things, Wild Places in the session “The Key to Conservation,” with Miriam Horn (Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman) and moderator Julie Berwald, on Sun., Nov. 6, 2pm, in the C-SPAN 2/Book TV Tent.