From the author of The Solace of Open Spaces, here is a meditation on how water, light, wind, mountain, bird, and horse have shaped her life and her understanding of a world besieged by a climate crisis.
[A] memoir in which a lack of chronology — more a collection of beautifully rendered memory fragments — disrupts any notion that 'background' experiences provide a progression in Ehrlich's life ... Global climate change means that landscapes we thought were forever are impermanent, while the pandemic makes clear that control over our human environment is equally illusory. And yet, out of this instability, the kinetoscope-like structure of Ehrlich's memoir offers views of a rich and full life ... Ehrlich brings a keen awareness of place, the uniqueness of each setting, while also understanding their interconnectedness as part of the larger planet ... while some of Ehrlich's observations of humans feel awkward, her language when describing the natural world is poetic ... Ehrlich reminds us of what is at stake as we confront the climate crisis.
The book follows some of that excitement, from exploring never-before-tread Arctic fjords, to observing regenerative agriculture projects in the bush of Mugabe’s troubled Zimbabwe. Ehrlich is drawn again and again to places of extreme weather, extreme natural beauty ... This is not an intimate psychological memoir; accounts of transformational events like divorce and falling in love are terse. Ehrlich prefers to give voice to the extraordinary people she meets ... The writing is elegant and direct, and the aim is true ... the reach for the spiritual dimension of human relationships to animals and nature is never empty philosophizing ... At the same time, her descriptions of the natural world are exacting ... Each chapter is self-contained and plunges into a different world. There’s a sense that Ehrlich’s adventures could fill volumes (and indeed, some are explored in depth in her earlier books), but the undertone is not the excitement of discovery but the melancholy of loss ... Despite the singularity of Ehrlich’s life and experience, it becomes a story that encompasses every reader as well, a sorrow we all must contend with ... Ehrlich doesn’t offer easy solutions or optimism, but neither does she sink into despair. The response she offers is complex, requiring uniquely human capacities.
... a lovingly observed account of the lives of people, animals and the landscapes that sustain them, spun together as deftly as a spider’s web, filled with purpose and urgency ... Unsolaced also challenges our contemporary preoccupation with looking to the future at the expense of living in the present. This constant rebalancing of contradictions defines Ehrlich’s narrative ... Ehrlich’s global nomadism and her linking of disparate ecologies conceal a carefully constructed thesis. The plains of Wyoming were formed when the glaciers melted at the end of the last Ice Age. Might Greenland one day resemble Wyoming? Is the destruction of humanity inevitable? ... As a species, our options are narrowing rapidly—yet for some of us they do still exist.