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The Green Life: Book Roundup Wednesday: Green Fiction

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March 23, 2011

Book Roundup Wednesday: Green Fiction

Green fiction Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. Today we're recommending fiction with an environmental theme.

The Witch of Hebron (by James Howard Kunstler, $24, Atlantic Monthly Press, Sept. 2010): If James Howard Kunstler’s best-selling novel World Made by Hand is any indication, this sequel is not your typical post-apocalyptic novel. Still set in a post-oil era, cars, electricity, corporations, and a concrete notion of government have all become obsolete in the not-so-distant future. Yet while humans are sick and fighting, Earth is gradually healing. The Witch of Hebron touches on issues like oil's decline and the perils of climate change without being preachy, overwhelmingly bleak, or boring. For readers hoping to get their hands on a great American climate-change novel, Kunstler’s latest book might be worth a look.

Anthill (by E.O. Wilson, $15, W. W. Norton & Company, Apr. 2010): Meet the new Huck Finn, a conservation-conscious native of Nokobee County, Alabama. Part coming-of-age story and part allegory, Anthill is Pulitzer-winning author E.O. Wilson’s first novel. The story chronicles the likable Raff Cody’s journey through life, starting with his childhood adventures in the wild forests of Nokobee to his foray into the corporate world after he graduates law school and begins working for the very company that’s threatening to destroy the land he holds dear. Interspersed in the middle of the narrative are “The Anthill Chronicles,” chapters that elegantly bring in a dialogue about the connection between ant and human societies. Wilson skillfully evokes Steinbeck when he writes, “There are of course vast differences between ants and men. But in fundamental ways their cycles are similar.”

Boiling Point (by K.L. Dionne, $8, Penguin, Dec. 2010): K.L. Dionne’s second eco-thriller is the sequel to Freezing Point, a gripping novel chronicling the battle for control of Antarctica’s ice. Think Dan Brown, only with more substantial material and fewer repetitive plot devices. Boiling Point features an eccentric group of characters — including two microbiologists, a celebrity figure, and a Nobel-winning scientist intent on destroying the world — and, of course, a storyline that promises to keep readers on edge. Boiling Point's quick pacing and rapid-fire writing will satisfy any Michael Crichton fan, as well as anyone wishing for an entertaining read with global warming at its core. 

The Heart of the Buddha (by Elsie Sze, $15, Emerald Book Co., Oct. 2009): Elsie Sze’s captivating novel can be read as part mystery, part love story, and even a rudimentary travel guide for the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. The story centers on twin sisters, the romantic and reckless Marian and the prim and pragmatic Ruthie, who struggle to find each other following Marian’s passionate chase after a Bhutanese monk — all the way to a mountain pass in Tibet. To add to the mystery, Marian's twin isn't the only one after her. Written in simple, first-person prose, The Heart of the Buddha gives readers a glimpse into a world that seems simultaneously remote and familiar.

The Wishing Trees (by John Shors, $15, New American Library, Sept. 2010): Though not your typical love story, The Wishing Trees is a poignant tale about the power of healing through exploring and embracing foreign lands, ultimately bringing the travelers back to the people they love. Following the untimely death of his beloved wife, Kate, protagonist Ian finds a letter from her asking him to take their 10-year-old daughter Mattie on a trip across Asia. In every country they visit, the father-daughter pair leave paper memories for Kate in ancient trees, hoping not only to reconnect with each other and with Kate but with all of humanity. Touchingly personal, Shors’ vivid descriptions throughout the novel are enough to transport you elsewhere.    

--Shirley Mak

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