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When Women Were Birds

Fifty-four Variations on Voice

By Terry Tempest Williams

When Women Were Birds
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2013,
    256 pages.

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Lynn (03/06/13)

This book is...
This book is a memoir.
This books is poetic.
This book is a plea for open lands.
This book is about the power of words.
This book is about the mystery of the blank page.
This book is disjointed.
This book is connected.
This book is about living.
This book is about a life remembered.....
I am going to choose this book for my book discussion group because it is many things in one small volume.
Colleen L. (02/28/13)

A poetic memoir...
Anne Lamott, author of Imperfect birds, describes the book as " Brilliant, meditative, and full of surprises, wisdom and wonder". I concur and would add poetic, moving and introspective. Initially, I did not like the book as the author does seem to jump from subject to subject. As I relaxed, however, and let the author take me along her journey, I began to enjoy the wandering and felt a connection with the author. I had no idea how influential the author was in helping to create the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument. Living in New England and traveling to this beautiful area, I can tell you I am eternally grateful for the conservation minded individuals who saved this awesome territory. I was so moved, that I purchased the book "Testimony" that Terry mentions in her memoir. It is a place that should be seen by everyone. I also was impressed by the way the author interpreted or tried to interpret the message of her mother's journals. It is clear she loved her mother deeply. I do not think this is a book that will appeal to everyone. For the right reader, though, it is a gem of a book to read quietly and slowly so you can savor each sentence. If I had rated the book midway and stopped, I would rated the book a "2" but the sum of the book moved me. I encourage all women to give this memoir a chance. I believe it has the ability to touch you deeply.
Christina C. (02/24/13)

A quick, insightful read
I was nervous to begin this book, described on the cover, by the author, as "fifty four variations on voice." I was afraid it would seem disjointed and I wouldn't "get it." Surprisingly, the pages just flew by and before I knew it, I had finished from cover to cover in just 3 hours!

I have never read any of Williams' prior works, including the precursor to this, "Refuge." Because of my unfamiliarity, it took me a bit to realize where she was going. I was unsure if this was a novel, fiction, biography, or a combination of the three. Once I stopped trying to put a label on it and just enjoyed it, I stopped caring.

As included in the book, it's about: Great Salt Lake, Bear River Bird Refuge, Flood, Division of Wildlife Resources, Mother, Family, Cancer, Mormon Church. The author realized none of these had anything to do with one another. Until she realized, they all had to do with her. With the author as the common denominator, she does manage to weave all of these subjects together in one story.

The only part of the book which felt slow to me was the part about Congress and lobbying and board meetings with male chauvinists. I felt this had a political agenda vibe and also had a few hypocrisies. That's just not my cup of tea.

The rest of the book with quotes, poetry snippets, personal recaps, historical and cultural lore, is quite captivating. It feels a bit like Wikipedia, in that information is presented in an encyclopedic way, but at the same time it's approachable and not overly scholarly and pretentious.

Overall, it left me with the feeling that I'd enjoyed a really diverse, interesting conversation with a bright woman.
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