Blood Brook is an unpretentious stream in Vermont, one of two main feeders of Lake Fairlee. It also runs through the homesite of Levin, a talented naturalist and storyteller who imbues these 18 essays with both a sense of nature and an intimate sense of place. From the sequential ripening of fruits with their concurrent displays of colors, timed to satisfy the needs of migrating birds, to the travails of transporting a 30-pound snapping turtle in a stick-shift car, Levin weaves the various aspects of Blood Brook into an accessible whole. When his small son wearies of a nature talk about insects, Levin challenges him to a game of ``Let's get the Cricket.'' When his wife incinerates a black widow spider nest near their son's play area, there are no crocodile tears for the arachnid. For Levin, death's shroud is part of the cloth of nature. Indeed, his description of a bee, destroyed by two ambush bugs as it sips nectar, is strangely, hauntingly beautiful. He even sees extinction as part of nature, dismissing as folly the attempt to save the California condor. Levin ( The Curious Naturalist ) doesn't sugarcoat nature, but his work is all the more fascinating for that. (Sept.)
Levin lives on 70 acres overlooking Blood Brook in east-central Vermont. In the early chapters of his book, Levin discusses, among other things, the brook, the surrounding landscape, tadpoles, wildflowers, fall colors, the demise of the American elm, and a trip to a windswept Mount Washington. These essays are, for the most part, pleasant and informative. The remainder of his book takes a different turn, in which Levin defends a friend in trouble for apparently trading in protected animal parts, goes afield to a Quebec power company and notes the trouble that development has brought to the native Cree population, and attempts to build a case that animal dissection in high schools is necessary. These chapters are not well developed enough to be totally satisfying or opinion changing. Part pleasant nature writing and part soapbox, this book is recommended for regional libraries or those with extensive nature essay collections. (Bibliography not seen.)-- Nancy Moeckel, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, Ohio
Peter Heller is an award-winning adventure writer and long-time contributor to NPR. He is a contributing editor at "Outside" magazine and "National Geographic Adventure" and the author of "Hell or High Water: Surviving Tibet's Tsangpo River". he lives in Denver, Colorado. He can be reached at www.peterheller.net.