After writing a piece for Vanity Fair about the life and tragic death of conservationist Joan Root in Africa in 2006, Mark Seal knew he had much more of Joan's story to tell and set out to do so in the biography Wildflower. With the help of her ex-husband Alan Root, also a famed conservationist known for his wildlife productions for the BBC in the 1960's and 1970's, in addition to her letters and journals, Seal paints a brilliant portrait of the laconic naturalist. From her early days on her father's coffee plantation in Kenya to her first meeting with Alan and their marriage, when, incidentally, she was stung by a scorpion on her wedding night, Joan possessed an uncanny ability to connect with and nurture animals. Her attempts to nurture an orphaned baby elephant and save her pet hornbill from a deadly green mamba snake, in addition to a widely chronicled disaster in which she and her husband saved thousands of pink flamingos from certain death in one of Africa's treacherous soda lakes, show not only Joan's compassion for animals, but also her devotion to her husband's adventurous and often dangerous film projects. In their marriage and in their work, she often played the straight man to his incautious flamboyancy: "She would never sneak up on a snake, pluck the hair out of an elephant's tail, or taunt a lioness-all of which Alan loved to do." Readers will be carried away to the jaw-dropping wilds of Africa, which Seal depicts with exquisite detail and excitement, as well as Joan's tender, yet heart-breaking story of love, sacrifice and, most of all, animals.
Recommended by Morgan Miller