In Bayshore Summer, we accompany Pete Dunne as he experiences the geography and natural and cultural history of New Jersey's Cumberland County in perhaps its toughest season - summer. From the Prologue, I knew it wasn't going to be your typical full-of-myself description of a premier natural area. I should have anticipated that for reasons mentioned above. Yet by halfway through page four and barely without knowing it, I had learned 7 new things about New Jersey, its history, its birds, and its convenience stores. And the facts - I'm purposely avoiding the word "trivia" because of its negative connotation and shared etymology with the word "trivial" - keep flowing throughout the book.
This is part geography lesson, part biology lesson, part science and nature lesson, part law lesson, and part history lesson. We learn about birds, fish, salt hay, weather, bugs, fruit, poaching, constellations and more, yet it is written in such a delightful manner, you don't realize you're being taught! Dunne is a consummate teacher, filling us with facts from beginning to end and it isn't until you're done that you realize you know more about blue crabs than 95% of Americans!
One gaping hole in the book was the lack of a map. As Dunne described his exploits through south Jersey, I kept saying to myself, "I want a map!", to the point that I pulled out my own atlas to place all the locations Dunne visited.
There was an agenda that clearly emerges as the book wraps up. In experiencing first-hand and then sharing the region's natural and cultural history, Dunne's Bayshore Summer is an attempt to shine a light on the loss of these precious resources and natural heritage. The book is an effort to highlight the area so as to gain support for the protections he feels are necessary for New Jersey's Delaware Bayshore. But oh, but what an enjoyable way to get the message across!
Now I'm off to catch up by reading his first volume, Prairie Spring. I'm sure I won't be disappointed and may come away just a little smarter.
Bayshore Summer - Finding Eden in a Most Unlikely Place
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt June 2010
In accordance with Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR Part 255, it is disclosed that the copy of the book read in order to produce this review was provided gratis to the reviewer by the publisher.