Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf: Alissa York

By Lynn Willoughby

The Naturalist ~ Alissa York
With the publications of Darwin’s theory of evolution, there came a generation of biologists who were desperate to prove the theory correct. Like Darwin, Walter Ash is a collector of things exotic. He has spent time along the Amazon Basin and is anxious to return.
When Walter dies in a bizarre accident, his widow Iris and his adult son Paul are determined to make the journey, gather specimens and for Iris, a talented artist, to sketch what cannot be brought back to Philadelphia. Iris will be travelling with a ladies companion and it turns out that Rachel is the true naturalist.
Paul’s real love is for books, but he takes a leave of absence from Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology to accompany the expedition. He knows his mother died at his birth, that his father carried him away from the Amazon jungle and the mixed blood family he has never known. But his relatives remember him and slowly he begins to feel at home in the jungle after the arduous return journey.
Rachel is the most interesting of the the protagonists. Raised as a Quaker farm girl, she is more level headed, more in tune with nature, quick to react when necessary. The lack of sanctity for animal life upsets her and she is the one who feeds the live specimens, making sure the turtles have enough water. She is the one who is completely awestruck at the waves of turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs!
This novel has beautiful descriptions of the natural world, but little story. Also, there is a lot of spoken Portuguese which gives the book authenticity but was mostly annoying to me.  “This was a little too heavy on the flora and fauna and too lean on the characters” was one reviewers remarks. I agree.
  • Fauna
  • Effigy
Who Knew?
The green anaconda is the largest snake in the world by weight – averaging 550 pounds.  It can grow to a length of 29 feet.

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