Natural World Reflections Book Reviews

WILD ROOTS: Coming Alive in the French Amazon
by Donna Mulvenna
Publisher: Naturebased Publishing
Publication date: July 10, 2016
Print Pages: 160
Language: English

Review by: L. G. Cullens on Aug. 25, 2016

Are you comfortable in your niche, seeming to have a degree of control, yet sometimes fantasize about acting with abandonment and seeing new places? Maybe it's an unconscious feeling you suppress out of fear of where it will lead. Come on now, you can tell me. No? Well then may I suggest reading about how exciting real life can be, and maybe expanding your horizons at the same time. No one else need know you're escaping to another level of being. It's what the doctor prescribes for a gloomy day. 

As we join the author, she has made tentative steps in our artificial culture, maybe even making a few false starts as we all have, and is settling into a guarded lifestyle when she meets a new man. No, this isn't a romance novel, unless you think of such as a romance with what life can be. The immersing experiences are related in an at first seemingly naïve voice evoking awe, with a magical blend of  subtle humor, touches of irony, sense of place, and insight, delivered at a quick pace. Quick to me at least, as I lost track of time reading this book. Getting further into the book, one realizes how much enlightening experience, and breadth of knowledge is being served up. Only those overly full of themselves could resist being pulled along. 

As a small example, even a simple act of taking a dip in the ocean is evocative, "I find swimming in their warm waters to be quite pleasant, or at least it was after I stopped freaking out every time something I couldn’t see brushed against me."

There are questioning natural world and biodiversity threads, subtle with a ring of hopefulness. And for the inquiring mind there's also a fair amount of interesting fact asides cleverly interspersed. For example, do you know why French Guiana's geographical location is ideal for launching satellite rockets?

As another example of immersive writing, in this snippet the author is transitioning from a "civilized" world mindset to appreciating Amazonian Nature.  

"It wasn’t long before illusions of following in the footsteps of eighteenth-century botanist Jean-Baptiste Aublet took root, and I tentatively slipped from the hammock to sit on the grass. However, rather than appreciate the nature around me, I anxiously looked about for armies of man-eating ants or hordes of tail-waving scorpions, cringing the moment so much as a breeze brushed against me." 

When it comes to Nature observations, the author doesn't bore you with a mouse in the cupboard. Here she's talking about a Harpy Eagle.

"As well as being an astonishingly powerful bird – imagine legs almost as thick as your arm – they are possibly the most scary-looking of the carnivorous birds. It is the harpies that are depicted in Greek mythology as horrid winged women with their breasts hanging out who swooped down to take humans to the underworld. However, despite this formidable appearance, they really are quite nice to each other. They form monogamous couples that mate for life, chirp to each other as they build a nest, live together for their twenty-five to thirty-five-year lifespan, and devote two years to care for a single chick."

Oh, and you think you have problems with wildlife in your yard? Try catching an enormous iguana making its way to the chicken pen, or helplessly watching as a colony of cassava ants make off with a good part of your garden.

So you don't get the idea that only wildlife falls under the microscope, here's an example of the author's wry humor.

"French Guiana is also a bureaucratic and bungling nightmare, and that is being optimistic. It took six months to open a bank account and longer for a debit card to arrive. On one occasion the wait was so long I asked, “Do you have a toilet?” “Yes, I will show you were it is,” said the clerk. Finding the door locked I asked, “May I have the key please?” “Oh no,” she said. “We can’t give out the key because one of our colleagues got murdered in there!” And at that moment I could understand why something like that may have happened."

I don't know what a pooh-bah writing "expert" might think of this book, but I'd laugh if they missed the point that the dogma we find harborage in is a reflection of our problems. To me everything in these pages melds together in an exciting journey and enjoyable balanced learning experience, and I applaud how the author both entertains the surface reader, and speaks to those that realize there is much more to life on our exciting little blue canoe than we're conscious of.

I truly hope that for all our sakes some of the authors insight and passion finds its way into the minds and hearts of readers.