Local author's novel is a message of hope for the environment

EDITOR'S NOTE: Author Susan Lang, whose book is the subject of this review, is a regular contributor to this page as a book reviewer for the Peregrine Book Company in Prescott.

"The Sawtooth Complex," by Susan Lang

"The Sawtooth Complex" is a fascinating novel that deals vigorously with the dilemmas of human life on the planet. Our willy-nilly destruction of the exquisite natural world is set against the efforts of some people to protect and care for the biology that sustains us.

Most characters are torn by contradictions, both personal and political, afraid to dream and striving to dream - all caught in our major problem on earth. Two are developers, one avid and uncaring, the other a "green" builder, Frank Farley, who tries to seek a balance between the needs of humanity and those of nature. In fact, Farley has dedicated his entire life to protecting the wild mountains surrounding his grandmother's homestead.

Several touching love stories develop and falter among them. The true hero, Maddie Farley, is an inspiring and reluctant monkey-wrencher who lives most closely to the earth. After spending her adult life as a botanist at a university, she has come back home to live in the canyon that raised her. The natural world she inhabits is invoked with poignant accuracy and love.

Ultimately, nature itself blows up everyone's world in a startling forest fire that overpowers the land and the people, laying waste to most everything, including the hopes and dreams people live for. The writing about this thrilling climatic event is terrifying, spellbinding, very intense and powerful. And then a miracle occurs.

In the wreckage left behind, the author, who is no sentimental idealist or doomsday prophet, finds reason to hope. The story is engrossing, entertaining, and really makes us think as well as feel. It's a fine addition to our best environmental and human - humane - literature.

A celebration for the release of "The Sawtooth Complex" will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, at the Peregrine Book Company.

- Reviewed by John Nichols, author of the "Milagro Beanfield War"