Sunday, March 01, 2009

What I read: "The Beast in the Garden" by David Baron

I read "The Beast in the Garden: A Modern Parable of Man and Nature" by David Baron for a book club I was recently invited to join. It's not a book I would typically read -- I gravitate toward fiction almost exclusively. It was a difficult read. Although the book is only 240 pages long, I took almost two weeks to get through it.

It's difficult in part because the subject matter hits close to home -- quite literally. The book tells the story of Boulder residents in the late 1980s who are besieged by hungry mountain lions -- mountain lions who have become so bold as to grab pets from enclosed pens and off of decks. The tale culminates with the killing of an 18-year-old man by a mountain lion.

The book covers the history of the founding and taming of the Front Range, then goes on to explain the conflicts between the wild world and civilization, between the Old West and the New West. Boulderites suffered inner conflicts over living with wildlife. There are sacrifices to be made in keeping the wilderness wild, and the book makes a good show of covering both sides.

The author obviously cares about nature and mountain lions, and I don't have a problem with that. We moved into the lions' space, removed their natural predators (wolves), encouraged their natural prey (deer) and allowed them to get used to having us around. It's an interesting subject, combined with a rich history of the state of Colorado. However, Baron's almost clinical descriptions of dogs being eaten and humans being stalked and attacked left me cold.


melissa said...

hmm- it does sound like an interesting read considering our location. so- you're left cold. would you still recommend this to a friend? and how do you like the book club experience?

Pammeey said...

I actually would recommend it to someone who is interested in living safely among wildlife, without having to kill animals to stay safe. I would NOT recommend it for casual reading.

I've yet to attend the book club so I can't say anything about that.