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From Barnes & NobleBarnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
In 1936, the American public, mired in the Great Depression, was generally unaware of the existence of the rare giant panda. It was also unfamiliar with a recently widowed young Manhattan socialite named Ruth Harkness. But all that would change amidst a frenzied public maelstrom over a baby black-and-white bear named Su-Lin and the young woman who found her. Together, like Seabiscuit, they gave a disheartened populace something to cheer about.
Harkness was an accidental explorer. Shortly after their marriage, her husband, a wealthy adventurer, left for China on a quest to capture a panda. Thwarted by a series of bureaucratic snafus, he unexpectedly succumbed to the ravages of throat cancer. Despite such cautionary circumstances, Ruth decided to honor his memory by completing the mission herself. People told her she was crazy, but Harkness was undaunted. Facing treacherous con men posing as guides, bandits, hostile government employees, and rival teams of adventurers, she also traversed some of the most difficult and dangerous mountain terrain on earth. And even if she managed to find a bear, nobody knew how to keep one alive in captivity.
As in all truly important adventure stories, the real progress is made within the adventurer herself. On her final panda-hunting expedition, Harkness makes a very different decision regarding the animals she finds, honoring both humanity and her beloved pandas in the process. Croke's deft portrayal of this visionary woman and her extraordinary quest is exciting, sensitive, and meticulously researched. (Fall 2005 Selection)