The Green Hour
A Natural History of Home
2023 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay Finalist
“Truly a love song to wild, shining places. It is a lonely, lovely memoir of a life shaped by a mother’s early death, a story from the time when the Earth still had the strength to save her children.”
When Alison Townsend purchased her first house, in south-central Wisconsin, she put down roots where she never imagined settling. To understand how she came to live in the Midwest, she takes a journey through personal landscapes, considering the impact of geography at pivotal moments in her life, vividly illuminating the role of mourning, homesickness, and relocations.
With sparkling, lyrical prose, The Green Hour undulates effortlessly through time like a red-winged blackbird. Inspired by five beloved settings—eastern Pennsylvania, Vermont, California, western Oregon, and the spot atop the Wisconsin hill where she now resides—Townsend considers the role that place plays in shaping the self. She reveals the ways that a fresh perspective or new experience in any environment can incite wonder, build unexpected connections, and provide solace or salvation.
Mesmerizingly attentive to nature—its beauty, its fragility, and its redeeming powers—she asks what it means to live in community with wilderness and to allow our identities to be shaped by our interactions with it: our story as its story.
“In essays of breathtaking beauty and emotional honesty, The Green Hour explores the psychic costs of uprooting, and the healing to be found in connecting with the natural world. Townsend is a writer so attuned to the numinous that her lyrical prose seems to shimmer on the page. An unforgettable book.”
—Catherine Jagoe, author of Bloodroot
“I read The Green Hour outside, and every few sentences I looked up to see this familiar place through Townsend’s eyes, every detail now infused with the ‘proper attitude of wonder.’ I suggest you take this book out with you into the world where all things are ‘waiting to be noticed and seen.’”
—Brenda Miller, author of An Earlier Life
“I enjoyed The Green Hour, for its prose and questing narrator, and for its evocation of landscapes and inner geography in these fine essays of loss, love, and healing.”
—Scott Russell Sanders, author of The Way of the Imagination
“An inherently fascinating, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking read throughout, The Green Hour: A Natural History of Home showcases author Alison Townsend's enviable skills as an observant storyteller. The result is a book that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after it has been finished and set back upon the shelf.”
—Midwest Book Review
“A powerful narrative, steeped in emotion, healing, and vulnerability, one that resonates with a wide readership. Townsend’s story is needed more than ever. . . . In accessible and poetic prose, Townsend appeals to a general audience. She engages her readers into becoming citizen environmental scientists and humanists. It is a call for slowing down and steeping oneself in contemplation in this accelerated and highly contested stage of the Anthropocene.”
“[Wisconsin's] thriving natural paradise is on full display not just on the cover of Alison Townsend’s gorgeous new memoir, The Green Hour, but also in the author’s lush, lyrical words. . . . This is a nature memoir, a love letter to the land and an exploration of what it means to put down roots. Don’t miss it.”
“No lines are wasted, and every sentence contains wondrous details of the natural world. . . . This book is a conversation with the places Townsend inhabits and one that fully draws the reader in with precise and detailed descriptions. Long meditative passages describing the land capture the beauty and mystery of the natural world. Each sentence contains images that bring the reader deeper and deeper into Townsend’s environment.”
Of Related Interest