cover image A Song for the River

A Song for the River

Philip Connors. Cinco Puntos, $22.95 (246p) ISBN 978-1-941026-90-8

This slim but potent volume of essays from Connors (Fire Season) beautifully examines themes of fire and water, life and death, and wonder and grief in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. Connors begins with a litany of suffering—his own and his friends’—from disease, divorce, wildfire, and deaths. Among the last, Connors writes about John, a fellow fire lookout, who died when his horse slipped off a mountain path and fell on him, and three teens (including Ella Jaz, an advocate for an undammed Gila River) who died in a small-plane crash. As Connors tells of these deaths and the ways in which he honors them (Jaz’s death led him to get involved in her cause), he also tells of his own physical hurts and of Mónica, the woman who relieved his pain and became his wife. His sumptuous descriptions of the Gila’s natural wonders, from a lone mountain tree frog to roaring wildfires, enliven the entire work, as do his skillful turns of phrase and pointed observations (“Each of us, in the wake of a bullet’s destruction, had checked into the guilt suite at the Hotel Sorrow and re-upped for a few hundred weeks”). This powerful work belongs with the classics of the nature writing genre and is equally important as a rumination on living and dying. (Aug.)