Synopses & Reviews
As vividly as Jon Krakauer put readers on Everest, John Vaillant takes us into the heart of North America's last great forest, where trees grow to eighteen feet in diameter, sunlight never touches the ground, and the chainsaws are always at work.
When a shattered kayak and camping gear are found on an uninhabited island, they reignite a mystery surrounding a shocking act of protest. Five months earlier, logger-turned-activist Grant Hadwin had plunged naked into a river in British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands, towing a chainsaw. When his night's work was done, a unique Sitka spruce, 165 feet tall and covered with luminous golden needles, teetered on its stump. Two days later it fell.
The tree, a fascinating puzzle to scientists, was sacred to the Haida, a fierce seafaring tribe based in the Queen Charlottes. Vaillant recounts the bloody history of the Haida and the early fur trade, and provides harrowing details of the logging industry, whose omnivorous violence would claim both Hadwin and the golden spruce.
"The felling of a celebrated giant golden spruce tree in British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands takes on a potent symbolism in this probing study of an unprecedented act of eco-vandalism. First-time author Vaillant, who originally wrote about the death of the spruce for the New Yorker, profiles the culprit, an ex-logger turned messianic environmentalist who toppled the famous tree the only one of its kind to protest the destruction of British Columbia's old-growth forest, then soon vanished mysteriously. Vaillant also explores the culture and history of the Haida Indians who revered the tree, and of the logging industry that often expresses an elegiac awe for the ancient trees it is busily clear-cutting. Writing in a vigorous, evocative style, Vaillant portrays the Pacific Northwest as a region of conflict and violence, from the battles between Europeans and Indians over the 18th-century sea otter trade to the hard-bitten, macho milieu of the logging camps, where grisly death is an occupational hazard. It is also, in his telling, a land of virtually infinite natural resources overmatched by an even greater human rapaciousness. Through this archetypal story of 'people fail[ing] to see the forest for the tree,' Vaillant paints a haunting portrait of man's vexed relationship with nature. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This tragic tale goes right to the heart of the conflicts among loggers, native rights activists, and environmentalists, and induces us to more deeply consider the consequences of our habits of destruction." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Only a writer of Vaillant's skill could capture both aspects of their dying world in such a powerful way." Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm
"Vaillant's start-and-stop narrative yields whiplash here and there, but he ably covers all the bases....Vaillant's tale of how it got to be so is of unfailing interest." Kirkus Reviews
"Mr. Vaillant is absolutely spellbinding when conjuring up the world of the golden spruce. His descriptions of the Queen Charlotte Islands, with their misty, murky light and hushed, cathedral-like forests, are haunting... The chapters on logging, painstakingly researched, make high drama out of the grueling, highly dangerous job of bringing down some of the biggest trees on earth." The New York Times
"The case of the golden spruce is a fascinating eco-mystery that cuts right to the heart of modern settlement of the Pacific Northwest." The Oregonian
"A scrupulously researched narrative worthy of comparison to Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild." Entertainment Weekly (Editor's Choice)
"A gracefully written, ambitiously researched and enthralling story of ecological majesty and human greed. It should enter that pantheon of memorable books that capture our region's character: a page-turner of a debut." The Seattle Times
"Make some more space on the shelf of Essential Northwest Books. John Vaillant has crafted a debut book that is a stunning look at this region's history and environment." Seattle Post-Intelligencer
A tale of obsession so fierce that a man kills the thing he loves most: the only giant golden spruce on earth.
About the Author
John Vaillant has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Outside, National Geographic Adventure, and Mens Journal among others. He lives in Vancouver with his wife and children. Of particular interest to Vaillant are stories that explore collisions between human ambition and the natural world. His work in this and other fields has taken him to five continents and five oceans. The Golden Spruce is his first book.