Golden Spruce

Vaillant, John. The Golden Spruce: a True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2005.

I like to think of Vaillant’s book as a guided tour. He flies his readers over British Columbia’s Queen Charlotte Islands, giving us a bird’s eye view of the forest sacred to the Haida tribe. He then swoops in lower to let us examine the history and culture of not only the land and its people, but of the logging industry hellbent on destroying it all. Once we have an understanding of the amazing expanse of British Columbia’s natural forest Vaillant lands us squarely on the life of Grant Hadwin, logger turned activist. Vaillant has strategically shown us both sides of the coin before introducing us to Hadwin’s shocking act of protest. Once responsible for mapping out logging roads Hadwin had a change of heart (and mind – he was rumored to be mentally ill and on medication) about the work he was supporting and defiantly cut down the area’s largest 300 year old Sitka spruce.

The only thing off-putting about the entire book was the ginormous photograph of John Vaillant on the back of his book. True, it’s his first book so he’s allowed to be proud of the effort but it seemed a little over the top for me.

Quotes I liked, “The trail of a person, or the thread of a story, is easily lost in such a place” (p 8) and, “Relatively speaking, most people up here feel about Hadwin they way people in the States feel about Timothy McVeigh: he’s an outsider who came into their place and killed something precious” (p 235).

Reason read: Roald Amundsen supposedly died in June (1928). He went missing and his body was never found. Ironically, 1928 is the same year Glen and Bessie Hyde went missing (Grand Ambition). But, Amundsen was the first explorer to traverse the Inside Passage. Oh, and by the way – Grant Hadwin also went missing and was never heard from again after he was set to go to trial for the felling of the great golden spruce.

Author fact: The Golden Spruce in John Vaillant’s first book.

Book trivia: I like it when a book broadens my horizons in unusual ways. Vaillant made me look up and find Our Lady of Good Voyage although he did not describe her as such. I had the following clues to go by: Mary, boat, statue, Gloucester.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go  in the chapter called “Inside the Inside Passage” (p 106).



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