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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

The fascinating story of a trial that opened a window onto the century-long battle to control nature in the national parks. When twenty-five-year-old Harry Walker was killed by a bear in Yellowstone Park in 1972, the civil trial prompted by his death became a proxy for bigger questions about American wilderness management that had been boiling for a century. At immediate issue was whether the Park Service should have done more to keep bears away from humans, but what was revealed as the trial unfolded was just how fruitless our efforts to regulate nature in the parks had always been. The proceedings drew to the witness stand some of the most important figures in twentieth century wilderness management, including the eminent zoologist A. Starker Leopold, who had produced a landmark conservationist document in the 1950s, and all-American twin researchers John and Frank Craighead, who ran groundbreaking bear studies at Yellowstone. Their testimony would help decide whether the governm…

Overall Book Review:

Jordan Fisher Smith delves into the world of wildlife ecology with his latest book Engineering Eden: The True Story of a Violent Death, a Trial, and the Fight Over Controlling Nature. This fascinating work of nonfiction details the history of America’s national parks, how they are managed, and what “wildlife ecology” exactly is. Engineering Eden is centered on the 1975 civil trial Martin v. United States, regarding the death of Harry Walker by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. Smith’s research is exceptional and the facts he presents are telling. Unfortunately, the book loses its momentum when Smith goes off on multiple tangents and gives his own opinions. The pacing really picks up in the second half, but the story involves so many people that the text is often confusing. Engineering Eden is recommended for those with an interest or background knowledge of ecology. 

Review of an Advance Reading Copy

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Crown Publishers

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  2 religious exclamations; 2 mild obscenities; 1 religious profanity; 2 anatomical terms.

Violence/Gore:  An implied occurrence of violence; frequent secondhand reports of violence involving bear attacks, death by fire, death by falling tree, shootings of bears and people, war, Indian attack; frequent brief scenes of violence include shooting and/or beating bears and elk, being attacked by bears, and a bear seizing a child. In several non-detailed scenes of violent death, people die in the Vietnam War; head-on car collision; falling in a geyser pool; fall while mountain climbing and being mauled by bears. Multiple scenes of blood and gore, a few over a page, include autopsy reports from a bear mauling and vivid descriptions of other bear attacks. In several scenes of intense violence, bear attacks are described in great detail, with a few longer than a page in length. 

Sex/Nudity:  An incident of kissing occurs. 

Mature Subject Matter:

Animal cruelty, sport hunting, predator extermination, Civil War & Vietnam War, draft dodging, contagion, lawsuits regarding wrongful death, underage drinking and drug use, smoking.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Frequent smoking and drinking of beer and wine; underage drinking and drug use, including use of LSD. 

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

My mother was the one who sparked my love of books. Long before school instruction, she sat me down and taught me to read. My childhood was filled with trips to the library and bookmobile to find great books. My first loves were The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Pippi Longstocking series by Astrid Lingren. Now as a mom and speech pathologist, I am constantly looking for good, clean books to use at home and in therapy. I enjoy reading many different genres, but my favorites are usually historical fiction. I married my best friend, the “boy next door”, and we have a beautiful little girl who we often find sprawled out on the floor, flipping through picture books. Together our family likes to swim, run and play tennis. Besides reading, I also love to bake, garden and travel.