cover image THE HOPES OF SNAKES: And Other Tales from the Urban Landscape

THE HOPES OF SNAKES: And Other Tales from the Urban Landscape

Lisa Couturier, . . Beacon, $23 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-8070-8564-6

Well traveled and well versed in science, first-timer Couturier is most passionate about the vital emotional connection one feels with the small wildlands of home. In these moving essays on the wild creatures of New York City and Washington, D.C., she offers sharply observed encounters with suburban foxes and urban herons (the former patrol a D.C. golf course, keeping the population of Canada geese in check and "playfully pouncing on golf balls as they roll by"), and she's equally enthusiastic about animals as mundane as crows and pigeons. She also addresses the ways in which our relationships with wildlife go astray, whether it's a plague of roaches in her apartment building or the ubiquitous human impulse to torture snakes. Particularly moving is an essay on women, wilderness and fear, in which she writes about learning to track the bullies who preyed on her brother by the sounds of the birds fleeing them. At her best, Couturier enters the terrain staked out by Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Terry Tempest Williams in Refuge . She makes a convincing case that a suburban woman with a toddler can have as viable a relationship with the wild as an intrepid backpacker; she does not so much domesticate the wilderness as reveal the wildness within the domestic. Agent, Stephanie von Hirschberg. (Feb.)