Rating: 4 stars
After forming an intense bond with Natasha, a wolf cub she raised as part of her undergraduate research, Renée Askins was inspired to found the Wolf Fund. As head of this grassroots organization, she made it her goal to restore wolves to Yellowstone National Park, where they had been eradicated by man over seventy years before. Here, Askins recounts her courageous fifteen-year campaign, wrangling along the way with Western ranchers and their political allies in Washington, enduring death threats, and surviving the anguish of illegal wolf slayings to ensure that her dream of restoring Yellowstone’s ecological balance would one day be realized. Told in powerful, first-person narrative, Shadow Mountain is the awe-inspiring story of her mission and her impassioned meditation on our connection to the wild.
This book is an amazing read. This memoir weaves together an amazing story about a woman and her love of the wild. Through Askins’s eyes, the reader learns more about her upbringing and how she was introduced to wolves for the first time.
I enjoyed reading Shadow Mountain because Askins really brings to light subjects a lot of us don’t talk about. She talks about the wild by providing her own definition of it, but also realizes that we can’t stop an animal from being wild because it’s a part of their nature. Askins also talks a lot about her personal life by telling us stories about her dogs. But she connects these personal anecdotes to her work with the Wolf Fund and her understanding of how we contribute to the state of animal populations. I enjoyed seeing these type of discussions in her memoir because it continues bringing to light topics we don’t openly discuss, such as how we try and take the wild out of our pets and pet pageantry. Both of these things are something we ourselves sometimes do and don’t realize it. So it was nice to have someone openly talk about these topics.
I found this book enjoyable because I wanted to learn more about the subject matter. As someone whose favorite animals is wolves, I wanted to learn more about the author and how she contributed to Yellowstone. But I also wanted to know more about wolves and their behaviors around people. I wanted more understanding of what our society is doing to help bring wolves back into the wild and what we are doing to make sure they are safe. And I found the information Askins provided to be very helpful in getting a better understanding of her organization and how she contributed to the restoration of wolves in Yellowstone National Park. The information she provided in Shadow Mountain shows she did a lot of research while doing her work, which helped me a lot in better understanding her perspective and the way the world perceives wolves.
My favorite part of this memoir was reading about her relationship with Natasha. I enjoyed reading about that relationship because I feel like it gives readers a better understanding of wolves. I also feel like when Askins was talking about Natasha she would talk about the wolf pack hierarchy, which I always found interesting to read about. I find learning about wolves and how they perceive others to be useful information in getting a better understanding of them. I also found it interesting that Askins voices an opinion that I myself believe to be true, which is that we as humans tend to fear things we know very little about. She talks about these things and calls them the “other,” something which we tend to do quite a bit ourselves when talking about things we don’t agree with as a society. I agree that wolves tend to be talked about in this way because they are creatures people don’t understand. So instead of trying to understand them, people kill them because they are scared of them.
While I find Shadow Mountain to be a powerful memoir, there are times when I feel like Askins does too much telling in her memoir. Her overall message to the reader is beautiful. But sometimes I feel like she’s telling story after story to get her point across instead of providing the reader with facts as to why we should be working on restoring wolves into the wild. While I get that this issue is very close to her heart, having all of these stories in her memoir made it a little of a slow read for me at times. When those moments came, I would’ve preferred to have facts as to why restoring wolves is a good idea for the whole animal population. I feel like that would’ve helped get her point across and provide the reader with even more information and understanding.
Despite this aspect of her memoir, I really enjoyed reading Askins’s book. I feel like it really helped me understand the challenges she faced while restoring wolves to Yellowstone. I also enjoyed hearing about her upbringing because it allowed me to better understand why she involved herself in this restoration effort. I look forward to continue reading more books about wolf recovery efforts in the near future and recommend this to anyone else interested in learning more about wolf restoration to Yellowstone National Park.