Author: Melissa L. Sevigny
Reviewed by: Chloe Fuksa, Putnam Six Bookstore
Melissa L. Sevigny is a journalist at Arizona Public Radio and the author of three books, the latest being Brave the Wild River. Published in May 2023, it is the true story of Elzada Clover and Lois Jotter as they ran the Colorado River in the summer of 1938 to become the first botanists to study it. Excluding the sources and index at the end, the book is only about 260 pages long, so it’s certainly not intimidating or filled with fluff. It’s very well researched too, with numerous quotes throughout pulled directly from the women’s letters and diaries.
Clover and Jotter, along with four men, began in Green River, Utah, before going through Cataract Canyon, Glen Canyon, and lastly, the Grand Canyon. The journey took them about a month and a half, and the author does a wonderful job describing just how big of an undertaking it was. The Colorado River was so wild and dangerous, with unpredictable flash floods, frequent rapids, and massive boulders, not to mention the rattlesnakes on land when the group walked or camped. Plus, being women, Clover and Jotter had to deal with all the doubters and naysayers who thought their place was back in the home. Through it all though, they catalogued over four hundred different plants, discovered brand new species, and sent specimens back that would later end up in the Smithsonian.
Perhaps this reviewer was just not paying close enough attention, but my one complaint is that it was awfully difficult to remember who was who, especially in the first half of the book. A name would pop up again after dozens of pages, but there weren’t any reminders or context clues for who they were or what their role was. A list at the beginning of the book with all the important players would have been a helpful addition. But overall, Brave the Wild River is a really wonderful read. It’s got so many aspects all balanced together: biography, history, botany, ecology, hydrology, geography, sociology. Readers are in for a fast-paced, riveting trip down the Colorado River with these two history-making women.
Visit us in Sunset Plaza or call 580-297-5089 to get your copy of Brave the Wild River today!