Gessner embarks on a leisurely but consistently interesting journey that follows, more or less, T.R.’s loop around the West. Along the way, we get engaging local color (a gathering of Roosevelt impersonators in North Dakota) and a solid sense of the man: energetic, inquisitive, immune to self-doubt and an ardent lover of nature. Gessner celebrates Roosevelt’s conservation achievements: five national parks, 18 national monuments and the U.S. Forest Service ... Gessner wrestles with these issues thoughtfully, weighing Roosevelt’s accomplishments against the cold and ugly.
... digs deep into a cultural and political history as complex as Roosevelt himself. Insightful, observant and wry, writing with his heart on his well-traveled sleeve and a laser focus on the stunning beauty of the parks, Gessner shares an epic road trip through these storied lands ... Weaving an often candidly critical biography of the 26th president through this account of the parks he created, Gessner eventually arrives at Bears Ears in southeastern Utah.
The road trip forms the backbone of his book, but Mr. Gessner fleshes it out with succinct sections on Roosevelt’s life, especially the periods that helped to shape his environmentalism, such as his boyhood, when he became enamored with natural history, and his stint as a rancher in North Dakota ... Mr. Gessner doesn’t excuse Roosevelt’s limitations and hypocrisies, but neither does he want them to cancel his signal achievements.
Though often given to sentences that have a faux Hemingway swagger to them, Gessner proves the point by examining Roosevelt’s evolving appreciation of nature and his recognition that other orders of existence besides the human had claims to the world ... Gessner mixes solid research with on-the-ground explorations that sometimes get a little goofy ... Gessner sometimes wanders down paths of speculation that don’t lead anywhere fruitful, and he doesn’t break much new ground. Still, it’s useful to be reminded of a president who appreciates the natural world and puts government to work doing good things ... Fans of Teddy the outdoor enthusiast will appreciate Gessner’s account.
... thoughtful ... This is no hagiography, however, as Gessner highlights his subject’s contradictions and hypocrisies as well as virtues ... This is an excellent look at the origins of environmentalism and an inspiring call to build upon what Roosevelt and other early environmentalists started.