cover image Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place

Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place

Terry Tempest Williams. Pantheon Books, $24 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40516-0

From 1982 to 1989 Williams, a naturalist in residence at the Utah Museum of Natural History, suffered two traumatic events: her mother's unsuccessful battle with cancer and the flooding of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge by the rising waters of the Great Salt Lake. Here she attempts to come to terms with the loss of her parent and that of the birds in the refuge by juxtaposing natural history and personal tragedy, alternating her observations on each. In an epilogue that might well serve as the subject of another book, the author also maintains that her mother--and many other people in Utah--probably contracted cancer as a result of radioactive fallout from atmospheric testing of atomic weapons in Nevada in the 1950s and '60s. And she concludes that, even though it is not in the tradition of her Mormon background to question governmental authority, she must actively oppose nuclear tests in the desert. The book is a moving account of personal loss and renewal. (Oct.)