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May 8, 2020

George Ernsberger - Columnist
Posted 5/8/20

BECOMING WILD: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace by Carl Safina (Holt). Enormously gifted explainer, clarifier, of natural history. And a writer both welcoming and …

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May 8, 2020

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BECOMING WILD: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace by Carl Safina (Holt). Enormously gifted explainer, clarifier, of natural history. And a writer both welcoming and challenging, so even if you weren't glomming up insight and new knowledge—we, too, it's easy to forget, not only reside but really live, become fully human, with other humans —so, you'd read on for the same reason you wouldn't walk out of a concert. You'll believe that you've lived in the ocean depths with the sperm whales, swooping slowly, powerfully, around a dense sort of sky like graceful, wingless birds, each weighing tons. And how can creatures with brains as small as birds' develop or evolve this intricacy of intimate and even social relationships? The chimpanzees are probably the most loveable of all, but maybe slightly less astounding. Yet here, too, as much as we already know about them, there's this much more to be surprised by. The inner reality of all these creatures' emotional lives can't be established beyond the toughest skeptics' doubts; but it's unmistakable that, at the level of instincts (at least) they feel driven to accomplish and live within social and family relationships. And when they do, they're contented, and when they're engaged in the struggle to achieve that, they're fully charged and alive; and when they're thwarted in it, they're miserable. So this is not only warming reading for folks given to going, “aw-w-w,” over them—it's also startlingly enlightening, possibly even maturing, for those of us more or less exclusively interested in deep understanding of human societies, and beings.

ONE FATAL FLAW: A Daniel Pitt Novel by Anne Perry (Ballantine). Just the third of Perry's new series, and every bit what you expect, at least in a general way: the mystery ingenious, the solution(s) rooted in character—not only of the very young attorney Daniel Pitt—the son of the Pitts we know so well—and his scientist friend Miriam fford Croft: as always with Perry we come to know well a full, and fully present, cast. And life goes on—that is, time does, history does; we are no longer in quite the same London where we first met Daniel's parents, those decades ago in our lives and theirs.

NO GOING BACK by Sheena Kamal (Morrow). A Nora Watts novel, the third of this series, too—fast, smart thrillers, with a splendidly heroic action series lead, a complicated, conflicted, very independent woman (and mother, especially in this one). The column missed the first two, but this one fills in deftly and will be a good place to start.

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