This is not a guidebook to the best parks, hiking trails, and campsites, and best, most affordable lodging. It is much more ... might be a lot to absorb. But if you have never set foot in a national park, love the wilderness, like history, or enjoy great storytelling, The Hour of the Land is calling you.
The Hour of Land isn’t a guidebook, taking readers through the nation’s most popular or most frequently visited parks — quite the opposite. Instead Williams embarks on an idiosyncratic journey through various landscapes (some empty, some crowded), delving, along the way, into the politics, activism, history and people that are also a crucial part of them ...Williams’s alarm at humanity’s calamitous impact on nature is indelibly imprinted in her writing ... Williams can sometimes get carried away by her anger at what’s being done (or not done) by the government, private companies and polluters. A few sections concerning acts of civil disobedience and environmental activists feel somewhat labored. But these are minor quibbles. The Hour of Land is one of the best nature books I’ve read in years.
It’s a truism that’s almost a cliché, but convincingly Williams shows how national parks can be both symbols of and actual catalysts for the things that are best about America, offering a montage of grandeur that can not only make one tear up in gratitude and an embarrassing sort of patriotic pride but also demonstrate the real value of these “wholesome” feelings to human emotional life, spurring one to engage differently with the world ... By her own admission, Williams—who is not a historian or policy expert—writes out of her own ignorance here, allowing her questions to guide her. Perhaps as a result, there is at times something tentative, even provisional, about her prose, which can dart between platitude and rhapsodic abstraction.
Williams is an easy writer to follow. Her style is creative and fluid. Often she includes pages of conversations, as well as poetry and other forms of expression ... Yet sometimes Williams gets too swept along in her own prose. Grand-seeming pronouncements can look surprisingly simplistic on closer examination ... The Hour of Land will inspire fans of Williams who enjoy her gentle, questioning prose. But perhaps the best way to honor the National Park Service, and to take up Williams’ cause, lies not in the bookshop but in the very places the book holds dear.
...even with the book’s far-flung collaborators and long reach, the author’s trademark poetic prose dominates every page ... At times The Hour of Land reads as if it had been rushed into print for this year’s National Park Service centennial ... Williams saves a surprise for the end: a dollop of optimism. She portrays the fossil-fuel industry as making 'its last desperate cries' ... Yes, those sentiments may smack of wishful thinking. But after all it was a mentor of Williams’s, Wallace Stegner, who called wilderness 'the geography of hope.'”
[The Hour of Land] is less a celebration than a platform for its well-known activist author to address a variety of serious concerns such as encroaching oil and gas development, growing water shortages, global warming and privilege versus poverty ... We might expect more of a guide and history, less of the writer’s anger and her focus on its causes, but have to be satisfied with what she deems important ... Williams awakens readers to present issues easily obscured by the National Park Service’s carefully cultivated, idyllic image.
[Williams is] tough, curious, and possess[es] a razory sense of humor ... The greatness here lies in her spirit’s palpability. Williams’ hunger for intimate engagement with nature has found her in tight corners ... rich in history—well-versed history and too often a grim history—and brimming with vignettes of the writer’s personal experiences.