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Reviewed by Rich Follett for Readers' Favorite
Birdbrain by Virginia Arthur is a sweeping semi-autobiographical chronicle (the author states in the foreword that many of the book’s events actually happened) of the life of a birder biologist/conservationist whose journey takes her to some of America’s most biologically diverse and unspoiled places. Protagonist Ellowyn Fischer’s odyssey from a failed marriage to lifetime tenure as an esteemed professor emeritus (spanning nearly sixty years) is recounted in an expansive narrative with vistas as wide and awe-inspiring as the panoramas in which they take place: the Mohave Desert; the sage scrub chaparral of Southern California; the Medicine Bow Mountains of Wyoming; Montana’s legendary Big Sky, and a host of other wilderness treasures all figure prominently.
Ellowyn - Ellie - who discovers her first group of ‘birdbrains’ by accident when she shows up on the wrong date for what she thinks will be a church picnic, finds a lifelong passion for all of nature’s denizens and connects with the land on a spiritual level the likes of which most of us can only imagine. Through her passion for birds and other living things, Ellie explores, advocates for, and sometimes succeeds in conserving vital fragments of a vanishing wilderness. Her indomitable spirit conjures awareness and action from everyone she meets and her legacy contains a powerful message: the act of destruction is infinitely easier than the act of creation and we who inhabit the Earth must tread gently if we are to continue the life full of abundance we too often take for granted.
Virginia Arthur writes with a warm, wry humor that easily propels the reader through nearly 600 pages of Ellie’s experiences. Included in the mix are education, romance, supernatural encounters, villains, and heroes and no small amount of wisdom. Birdbrain truly has something to inspire everyone - it is a gritty but tenderhearted paean to the idea that one person with enough conviction and determination can truly make a difference and change our world for the better.