Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America and the Fight for Cumberland Island

Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America and the Fight for Cumberland Island

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by Will Harlan
     
 

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Carol Ruckdeschel is the wildest woman in America. She wrestles alligators, eats roadkill, rides horses bareback, and lives in a ramshackle cabin that she built by hand in an island wilderness. A combination of Henry David Thoreau and Jane Goodall, Carol is a self-taught scientist who has become a tireless defender of sea turtles on Cumberland Island, a national… See more details below

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Overview


Carol Ruckdeschel is the wildest woman in America. She wrestles alligators, eats roadkill, rides horses bareback, and lives in a ramshackle cabin that she built by hand in an island wilderness. A combination of Henry David Thoreau and Jane Goodall, Carol is a self-taught scientist who has become a tireless defender of sea turtles on Cumberland Island, a national park off the coast of Georgia.

Cumberland, the country’s largest and most biologically diverse barrier island, is celebrated for its windswept dunes and feral horses. Steel magnate Thomas Carnegie once owned much of the island, and in recent years, Carnegie heirs and the National Park Service have clashed with Carol over the island’s future. What happens when a dirt-poor naturalist with only a high school diploma becomes an outspoken advocate on a celebrated but divisive island? Untamed is the story of an American original standing her ground and fighting for what she believes in, no matter the cost.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

A New York Times Bestseller
A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Series pick
One of Amazon's Top 100 Books of the Year
A Daily Beast Best Nonfiction Book of the Year

Winner of the Langum Malott Prize
Winner of the 2015 Society of Environmental Journalists Rachel Carson Environment Book Award
An Advisory Council for the Georgia Center for the Book’s “Books All Georgians Should Read”

“Vivid. . . . Ms. Ruckdeschel’s biography, and the way this wandering soul came to settle for so many decades on Cumberland Island, is big enough on its own, but Mr. Harlan hints at bigger questions. Who does this island belong to? The Park Service, the Carnegies, Carol—and, for that matter, the turtles? What is the difference between stewardship and ownership? Carol Ruckdeschel found a home as the latest in a series of women who have tried to protect Cumberland Island. The difference being that, rather than being a Carnegie, she is a benevolent invasive species of one.”—Wall Street Journal

“Harlan intimately and expansively profiles a fearless Southern island dweller. . . . A moving homage and an adventure story that artfully articulates the ferocities of nature and humanity.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Carol Ruckdeschel isn’t quite your mother's idea of a role model, but she is my idea of an inspiring woman. Her gifts are many, her commitment resolute, her contribution world-class. And boy—as you’ll read—has she had fun. What a story! It's as beautiful as the island she loves.”—Carl Safina, author of The View from Lazy Point and A Sea in Flames

“Now this is an adventure story. Untamed is the true-life saga of a brilliant, beautiful woman who became her own tall tale. Just to survive, Carol Ruckdeschel had to become as elusive and mysterious as the creatures she first set off into the wilderness to study. Hunted by her enemies, stalked by an ex-lover, living off the land, Ruckdeschel found herself locked in a battle of wits to stay alive and pursue her scientific passion. This is no Sad Girl on a One-Year Quest for Love and Backbone; Carol Ruckdeschel is on a mission, and she's smart and lethal enough to deal with anyone who tries to stop her.”—Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run

“A true action hero, Carol Ruckdeschel is using her powers of insight, persuasion, and personal commitment to protect a wilderness island off the coast of Georgia. She’s not just bemoaning the tragic decline of the natural world that sustains all life on earth, humans and turtles included. She is also putting her own life on the line to save what’s left. Thanks to Carol, there is hope for wild creatures who have preceded humankind by hundreds of millions of years—and hope for an enduring future for ourselves as well.”—Sylvia Earle, record-setting oceanographer, National Geographic explorer-in-residence, 2009 TED Prize winner, Mission Blue founder, Time's first Hero of the Planet, and author of The World Is Blue

“Wild country produces wild people, who sometimes are just what's needed to keep that wild cycle going. This is a memorable portrait.”—Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, winner of the 2013 Gandhi Peace Award, founder of 350.org

“Get ready to inhale steaming carcasses, gun smoke, and salty sea air. Harlan has a magic touch for storytelling. He rings out every sensory detail in this compelling sketch of a controversial, no-holds-barred life.”—Jennifer S. Holland, National Geographic writer and New York Times bestselling author of Unlikely Friendships

“Open this book to the brine of salt marsh, the musk of turtles and sea breezes, and the astonishing story of Carol Ruckdeschel. From the first line I was captivated by this biography of a fierce and enigmatic passion for wildness, mesmerizing and beautiful. May we all learn something of love from it.”—Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood

Untamed is not only a page-turner but also a show-stopper. Its engaging protagonist, Carol Ruckdeschel—a combination of Jane Goodall and Annie Oakley—is kaleidoscopic in her paradoxes: ‘brutal and benevolent, savage and sympathetic, cutthroat and compassionate.’ Harlan has written an environmental classic that belongs on the shelf alongside Carson, Leopold, Muir, and Thoreau. This crafty, adventurous biography reads like a good novel and leaves readers in tears. It’s a tale of an American hero told by an American hero, and the collaboration is luminous.”—Thomas Rain Crowe, author of Zoro’s Field: My Life in the Appalachian Woods

"This is going to be a winner. I loved it—and was even choked up a time or two by Carol’s passion to save wild Cumberland. An ‘undertow of awe’ sweeps beneath the entire story. As Carol’s life reveals, the battles for wilderness are many and the victories are short-lived, but ultimately the fight comes down to one thing: pure, unwavering love."—Brooke Williams, author of Halflives: Reconciling Work and Wildness

“Deliciously engrossing. . . . Readers are in for a wild ride.”—Citizen-Times (Asheville)

“This is one gorgeous book, a testament not only to Will Harlan’s obvious writing chops but also what the best in journalism is all about, the passion to dig and go beyond the obvious. Harlan’s unflinching, inspirational biography of Carol Ruckdeschel . . . shows the reader her amazing character, spine and spunk . . . Untamed is a unique portrayal of a unique crusader . . . Very thought-provoking stuff, with beautiful writing and an eye-for-detail.”—Society of Environmental Journalists

Kirkus Reviews
2014-04-10
Blue Ridge Outdoors editor in chief Harlan intimately and expansively profiles a fearless Southern island dweller.A small, bridgeless barrier island off the Georgia coast, Cumberland is home to countless endangered species and three major ecosystem regions. It is also home to Carol Ruckdeschel, a self-taught biologist who has integrated herself into the lush landscape and lived off the land for much of her adult life. Harlan met this intrepid "Jane Goodall of sea turtles" while he was a park ranger and shadowed her for two decades, impeccably documenting in field notes and journals her ramshackle cabin life of "packrat practicality." Ruckdeschel was a rowdy only child born during the early stages of World War II, a solitary, curious tomboy who skipped church to commune with feral cats and turtles while her father taught her to shoot rifles and appreciate liquor. Her interest in the biological world bled into young adulthood; she was obsessed with dissecting animal carcasses as she taught herself outdoor skills and drank, which expelled her from college. Undeterred, Ruckdeschel immersed herself in natural history studies and married the first of her three husbands, all of whom she would divorce. Perhaps to soothe a broken heart, Harlan presumes, she retreated for the marshes and mountains of Cumberland, where she has resided as an increasingly feral inhabitant ever since. Her grass-roots activism has kept her spirited love of the island and its wild inhabitants sustained as she forcefully combats developers thirsty to capitalize on the land's natural resources and sweeping vistas. Harlan's painstaking detailing of the island's history includes the legacy of the Carnegie family and the ruins of their antebellum plantation houses and mansions. Ruckdeschel's extremist legacy and tireless wilderness preservation campaigns are sweepingly recorded here in arresting detail.A moving homage and an adventure story that artfully articulates the ferocities of nature and humanity.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802122582
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
05/06/2014
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
578,171
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

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