The Life, Death, and Rebirth
of a Perfect Tree
"Reads smoothly, like a well-written novel. . . . A thoroughly absorbing book."
—Library Journal, Starred review
“A fascinating roundup of the characters and passions behind a century-old effort to rescue a tree that is both emblematic in American culture and deeply problematic to its erstwhile saviors.”
"American chestnut is a parable for our time; a sad and salutary tale beautifully told by U.S. science journalist Susan Freinkel.”
An "enthralling synthesis of science and sentiment... time after time, this impassioned book strikes resonant emotional chords that transform dry facts into dynamic prose."
"A spellbinding microhistory teeming with tales of conviction, ambition, frustration, and just plain luck..."
"Freinkel chronicles the history of the tree, the people who drew their livelihood from its high quality wood, and the conservationists who are working with a near-obsessive passion to revitalize the chestnut population."
"Delivers a spellbinding microhistory teeming with tales of conviction, ambition, frustration, and just plain luck. With poetic sensibility and crystalline objectivity, Freinkel artfully explains the effect of this historic annihilation and cogently explores the practical and philosophical challenges that lie ahead."
"Time after time, this impassioned book strikes resonant emotional chords that transform dry facts into dynamic prose."
Graceful, provocative, and inspiring. Thoreau would be proud.
—Alan Burdick, author of Out of Eden, a 2005 National Book Award finalist
In prose as strong and quietly beautiful as the American chestnut itself, Susan Freinkel profiles the silent catastrophe of a near-extinction and the impassioned struggle to bring a species back from the brink. Freinkel is a rare hybrid: equally fluid and in command as a science writer and a chronicler of historical events, and graced with the poise and skill to seamlessly graft these talents together. A perfect book.
—Mary Roach, author of Stiff and Spook
This is a beautifully-written account of the passing of one of the botanical wonders of the North American landscape, the American chestnut tree, which was nearly extirpated by a plague that entered the ecosystem and swept these great trees away. Freinkel, a gifted writer whose research is impeccable and whose reporting is topnotch, tells of the impassioned work of scientists over the past century and up to today, trying to bring the American chestnut back from the brink of extinction. Only a person in love with trees could have written this lovely book.
—Richard Preston, author of The Hot Zone and The Wild Trees
A spellbinding, heart wrenching, and uplifting account of the American chestnut that asks the vastly important question: Have we learned enough, and do we care enough, to begin healing some of the wounds we've inflicted on the natural world?"
—Scott Weidensaul, author of Return to Wild America and Mountains of the Heart
In this beautifully written volume, Susan Freinkel ably describes the marriage of science and passion that is being brought to bear to save this majestic American tree from extinction. The people whose ancestors lived among chestnut trees and their places come alive for the reader, as does the appearance and spread of the blight and the heroes who are struggling with it today. The book concludes with a tantalizing vision of chestnuts in the forests again -- a thought of making the world right where it has gone wrong.
—Peter H. Raven, director of Missouri Botanical Garden