THE SNOW GEESE: A Story of Home

William Fiennes, Author . Random $24.95 (288p) ISBN 0-375-50729-9

Neither bird nor beast, Fiennes's debut book is a hybrid of memoir, naturalism and travel writing in which he describes his several-month journey through North America following the migration patterns of snow geese from the southern U.S. to the Arctic Circle. Fiennes fell in love with these birds when he read Gallico's haunting classic, The Snow Goose, while recovering from an unspecified serious illness in his mid-20s. After he regained his strength, the snow geese became his obsession, and he planned a journey that mirrored the birds' own. The geese's migrations become a metaphor for Fiennes's wanderlust and nostalgia, his displacement as an Englishman in North America and his longing for—and emotional distance from—the family home that both enchanted and imprisoned him during his convalescence. Fiennes is a fluid writer whose best moments are found in his witty, knowledgeable observations of the birds' behavior and natural surroundings. His minutely detailed, folksy sketches of the people who befriend and educate him—a limnologist (expert in freshwater bodies) for the Fish and Wildlife Service, an 82-year-old fellow bird-follower from Iowa, a hunter of the snow geese—feel unnecessary, as do some of the musings about his own larger psychological journey. Nonetheless, this intricately woven, ambitious book will appeal to both bird lovers and travelers, especially those interested in far northern climes. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 02/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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