Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Book Review: Finding Beauty In A Broken World

This is the first book I've read by Terry Tempest Williams although I've heard her name in the distance for years. And the truth is I set the book down after the first 35 pages and it was only by chance I picked it up after two weeks and began again. The second time I barely set it down until I turned the last page though.

Finding Beauty opens with TTW's experience with making mosaic in Italy, the metaphor of which is carried through the remainder of the book. I could have done without this part but the art ties the remaining two seemingly disparate sections of the book together.

The first half, after the opening, is about prairie dogs. Yeah, I know. Prairie dogs. I saw one once and have never given them another thought. Given their shrinking numbers I'll likely never see one again either. And I was fascinated with them.

TTW spends two weeks with a leading prairie dog researcher in the Utah desert observing the dogs 14 hours a day. Her observations are all over the map. They're part memoir, part poetry, part educational, humor, despair, part hope. I fell in love with prairie dogs. They live in communities, communally nurse the young and are brilliant in their contribution to the natural landscape. And they have language. It's amazing.

The second half of the book is about the author's experience in Rwanda with a group of artists building a memorial in a survivors town. It's a world away from the Utah desert but TTW ties it in with the mosaic metaphor. I appreciated reading the ways in which the Rwanda people are healing. And it was hard to read what individual people went through, are still going through. But there's beauty; the never ending beauty of spirit, of community, of courage and renewal. A miracle really.

I not only learned about prairie dogs and the people of Rwanda from reading this book but it reminded me to look for beauty in the broken places too. My only disappointment is I can't read it for the first time again.

I recommend this book to all people. It's our story regardless of landscape or borders.
I rate it 4.5 stars only because the beginning nearly kept me from the remaining beautiful stories.


Electronic Goose said...

Great review--I wrote it on my list of library books to pick up. Thanks!

Green Bean said...

That sounds lovely. We all need to learn to look for beauty in the broken places - our world is filling up with them day by day. Thanks for the review.

Kale for Sale said...

Electronic Goose - (I love that name.) I hope you enjoy it and let me know what you think.

Green Bean - I think it takes some practice to look for the beauty. At least I was happy for the reminder. Are the trees in bloom your way? It's a wonderland this direction.

Anonymous said...

TTW's book "Refuge" is on my list of Ten Best. I highly recommend it!

And prairie dogs - we saw some on our last drive cross country - they were amazing. I may read this just to get a little more priaire dog info in my life. Thanks for the review!

Kale for Sale said...

Alline - Thanks for the strong recommendation of Refuge. I'm ready to read something else by TTW.

Reading Finding Beauty I wondered what it must have been like when there were great numbers of prairie dogs. People are actually making domestic pets of them now which seems a bit unnatural but then I suppose it's all a matter of perception.