Philip Connors has previously written about his many years as a fire lookout in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest. His new memoir, A Song for the River, reflects not only on the wilderness, but also on the lives of those who are touched by it. It’s a work at times sad and beautiful, at others reverent.
Much of the book focuses on the deaths of four people who loved the Gila River. A chapter set during the summer of 2014 relates the author’s friendship with John, a longtime fire lookout whom Connors views as a supportive brother, and who died in a freak accident in the wilderness. Other chapters describe three promising local students, committed to studying and preserving the natural beauty around them, who died with their teacher in a small plane crash.
In all these cases, Connors pays meaningful tribute to his subjects, conveying what made their contributions special and explaining what he learned from knowing them. There’s a palpable sense of loss. The book also includes reflections on the author’s own life and actions, including a new relationship, a serious health scare, and other important milestones.
Vivid prose describing the Gila area is ever-present, as when smoke forms “an angry aubergine band smeared across my northern horizon like a brushstroke from the hand of a demented god.” Love for the wilderness is compellingly conveyed. In moving snapshots of those touched by the Gila, A Song for the River shows the myriad ways that naturalists and nature touches others.
Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the author for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.