The "all characters are fictional" disclaimer didn't shed any light on where the book was going, except that Bodsworth has a sense of humor, "It [the story] is a work of fiction and all of its characters are fictional people-- except the goose, which is a fictional goose." The story promptly starts with the story of a Barnacle goose in the waters off the Hebrides, switches to a cocky grad student in Toronto and joins them together in a clever play on names. I won't reveal much more, except that it is not about a botanist: ornithologists are altogether different people, and that I did weep profusely enough about a goose that I've sworn off reading other sad books for a while. One hopes that the sad parts not about the goose are sorely outdated, and that race and class relations have altered fundamentally in fifty years, but I'm not sure I would have been crying if bigotry were all a thing of the past. Highly recommended for both mothers, and my many biologist friends who enjoy a touching story, even if many of the characters are abrasive.
I picked up Ivan Doig's The Whistling Season the day after reading The Strange One and read it in a day as well. Doig's novel of childhood dryland farming in Montana in 1909 sparked comparisons to O Pioneers!, Louis Erdrich's Master Butchers' Singing Club and Ralph Moody's Little Britches stories, all of which are great in their own way, and which The Whistling Season can stand proudly among. I couldn't help but compare The Whistling Season to Buster Midnight, both being about Montana and boxing in the early 1900s, and for characters that feel authentic (even when they learn Latin in a one room school), Doig beats Sandra Dallas by a long way. My mother recommended The Whistling Season in part because it promotes one room and local schools as part of comprehensive education. I totally agree that great teachers can make a great difference and that students' education should integrate science and arts into spelling lessons. I can't help but think, however, that Doig's character and my mother romanticize the possibilities of education in a small town. My fathers will quickly tell you that small schools in small towns more often mean being stuck with mediocre educators for years rather than learning from a brilliant integrated curriculum as Doig's character did. Strangely, the one thing that made me cry reading this was the descriptions of Halley's Comet, which I managed not to see in 1986, despite many attempts. Hale-Bopp, fortunately, was magical in the evening sky in Philadelpia.
In The Creation E.O. Wilson, "proposes an* historic partnership between scientists and religious leaders to preserve Earth's rapidly vanishing biodiversity" according to the back cover. Frankly, if Wilson intended to be persuade about the power of combined forces, he fails. Despite written claims to the contrary, however, I doubt this was the main purpose of the book. The final unit "Reaching Across" (subheaded "Science and religion are the two most powerful forces of society. Together they can save the creation.") fills only 3 and half pages of this slim volume, and most of those pages are spent refuting Intelligent Design as a scientific theory, hardly a compelling argument for a joining of societal superpowers. What Wilson does do well, however, is explain just how important biodiversity is biologically and as most of the book is devoted to this (in a guise of a letter to a Baptist preacher), I assume this was his primary intent. His suggestions for raising a naturalist are great and his ideas about teaching biology carefully considered. I was amused (bemused?) that, following the calculation that protecting the top 25 hotspots of biodiversity (protecting about 70% of land dwelling plants and animals) would cost the world $30 billion, Wilson went out of his way to explain how this vast sum of money could be found. The book, written in 2006, was obviously before modern congressional bailouts and only made me wonder why we didn't throw in another $30 billion to protect global biodiversity if that's all it's going to take. Should you be wanting to read why biodiversity is important and how the science needs to progress in order to preserve it, I recommend The Creation. While the book is respectful of religion, if you are looking for creative solutions to combine science with religion, look elsewhere.
*how silent to 'h's need to be to be preceded by "an"? "An hour" "an herbaceous plant" definitely, but "a heroine overdose" and "a histogram". In my pronunciation, historic and hysterical would fall on the "a" side, but I know of no official ruling (my English ex-boyfriend does not count).