by R.D. Lawrence
I\’ve read this book before, but it was so long ago the prior review was written from memory. Had the chance to enjoy it again, as I bought a copy recently from Powell\’s. The nature writing is just as good as I remember, but funny how the dramatic hunting scenes from the final sixty pages made the strongest impression on me before- in reality, most of the book is a slow buildup, showing the life of the mountain lion. It starts with his mother. The female puma has a negative encounter with a pair of wildlife poachers, one of whom accidentally gets his arm damaged in a trap he\’d set for her– and afterwards the puma is touted as a \”man-eater\” who \”almost ripped his arm off\”. The bad experience instills her with a deep fear of mankind that she teaches to her cubs later in the story. A lot of the book is just about how the family of cougars lives- the mother puma and her three young. How they navigate the landscape, find and ambush prey, show affection for each other, learn skills, hold their territory, avoid danger (encounters with wolves, bears and man). Eventually only the main puma of the story- a very rare creature with an albino coat- is left alive of the family. His fear of man boils into a hatred, and when the poachers come after him specifically, he starts stalking them in turn. I had forgotten most of the story about the hunters and their operation, which has just as much page time as the puma\’s daily life. In the end, a trio of conservationists comes to try and protect the rare cougar from being killed- whose existence is accidentally revealed to the public by one of the hunters when he gets drunk and starts bragging of the future trophy. Reading it this time around, I found the parts about the animals\’ behavior and survival methods satisfying, the parts about the people a bit stiff- perhaps it\’s just the writing style or the age of the book. Near the end, I thought the tactics of the woman who camped out in the forest alone to foil the hunters, a bit laughable. Times were different when this book was written, that\’s for sure. The ending gave me a nice surprise- I had completely forgotten the turn of heart one of the hunters takes. Nice that it was the one I found a bit more sympathetic during the entire storyline.
Rating: 3/5 329 pages, 1990