Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Death in Africa

Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Death in Africa

by Mark Seal
     
 
With compassion and an unswerving regard for the truth, veteran journalist Mark Seal lays bare the deeply moving, inspirational story of Joan Root, a dedicated environmentalist and Oscar-nominated wildlife filmmaker. He covers her early days in Kenya as a shy young woman with an almost uncanny ability to connect to animals; her whirlwind courtship with the dashing

Overview

With compassion and an unswerving regard for the truth, veteran journalist Mark Seal lays bare the deeply moving, inspirational story of Joan Root, a dedicated environmentalist and Oscar-nominated wildlife filmmaker. He covers her early days in Kenya as a shy young woman with an almost uncanny ability to connect to animals; her whirlwind courtship with the dashing Alan Root, their marriage, and the twenty years of nonstop adventure and passionate romance that followed, both in Africa and around the world; the shattering disintegration of the marriage and partnership; and Joan’s triumphant struggle to reinvent herself as the protector of her lakeshore community’s fragile ecosystem—a struggle that would lead to her tragic death in January 2006. Joan Root dreamed of a bright future for Kenya, a country blessed with unmatched beauty but scarred by decades of colonization and a culture of corruption. She spent her life fighting to make that dream a reality. Her life ended too soon, but “thanks to Seal’s meticulous re-creation, her extraordinary life lives on.” (People, four-star review)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
 
“Featuring an extraordinary real-life heroine, exotic settings, a love triangle, and a mysterious death, [Mark] Seal’s riveting portrayal of famous wildlife filmmaker Joan Root is not to be missed.”—Good Housekeeping 
 
“Compelling . . . [a] strange, brutal, sad and beautiful story . . . a vivid and intensely captivating chronicle of fairy-tale lives played out against a once wild and seductive backdrop that is quickly disappearing.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
“Fascinating . . . [Mark Seal pulls] various elements into a compelling narrative: the personal love story. The physical splendor of Africa and its endangered wildlife.”—USA Today
 
“More significant than Seal’s investigation into Root’s murder is his portrait of this extraordinary adventurer.”—Washington Post
 
“Transports readers into the midst of an incandescent, doomed life.”—Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780812979091
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/13/2010
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
8.08(w) x 5.36(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

PREFACE

She always knew he would come back to her.
He would climb into his helicopter at first light one Nairobi morning and rise above the screaming madhouse of the city, tilting west over
East Africa’s largest slum, and flying out into wonder: out over the
Great Rift Valley, the cradle of civilization, a three- thousand- mile- long seam in the earth that stretches from Syria to Mozambique but is at its most glorious here in Kenya. As the floor of the world dropped away,
opening into endless sky and a breathtaking vista, he would follow this corridor straight back to her.

There were things she longed to tell him, things only he would understand.
Everything she’d been too shy and self- effacing to say before would now come pouring out, just as it had in all of the letters she had written him, letters she never sent:

A lifetime has passed since we split, and yet some memories of things we did together seem [as if they happened] only the other day. There is so much I would like to say and share with you—now
I know I am not inferior to you.

She waited for him in her blue house beside the lake, which looked so perfect and placid from the air. But this was merely another extreme in a country where great beauty coexists with unimaginable brutality,
where the border between life and death is the thinnest of lines, where nothing is ever as it seems.

Now in contact with others, I realize how knowledgeable I am about the natural world. . . . People respect me nowadays. But the only love of my life is one of the few people I cannot communicate with, even as a friend.

She could leave all that pain behind as soon as he came back into her life. Flying over the mountains and dormant volcanoes that form a natural amphitheater around the lake, he would hover over the emeraldgreen water, taking in its wide, verdant, wildlife- infested expanse.

When you flew over and saw the blue house you were probably happy you didn’t live here anymore, but I am really such a different person, I hardly know myself. I have written you so many letters in my head but when I try to write I go to pieces.

She imagined him buzzing the house, as playfully as he always had,
then touching down on the grass landing strip and stepping out, as if returning from only a brief safari instead of half a lifetime. Then at last she would impress him with her independence and accomplishments and show him the abiding endurance of her love.

Finally, he did come back to her, flying in with the dawn on January
13, 2006. It was not, however, as she had dreamed for so long. He hadn’t come to reunite with the woman who had once been his wife,
partner, and best friend, the woman he’d left to live alone in Africa for sixteen years.

He had come to collect her remains.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Mark Seal has been a journalist for more than thirty years. Currently a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, he has written for many major magazines and served as a collaborator on almost twenty nonfiction books. Although he has written thousands of stories, Seal says none has struck a chord with readers more than the story of the incredible life and brutal death of Joan Root, which he originally reported in the August 2006 issue of Vanity Fair. He lives in Aspen, Colorado.

From the Hardcover edition.

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