A good view of a beautiful bird in the wild is the closest to bliss that I have experienced. The thrill and awe are unequaled - the rest of the worldA good view of a beautiful bird in the wild is the closest to bliss that I have experienced. The thrill and awe are unequaled - the rest of the world simply disappears. So, in many ways, I "get" Phoebe Snetsinger, though I will never have anything close to her life list - 85% of the known bird species on the planet. At the time of her death, she had seen more species of birds than any other person.
After a couple of decades of being a unfulfilled housewife and mother, Phoebe was diagnosed with melanoma and told she had six months to a year to live. She immediately took off on her birding adventure and traveled to some of the most exotic and dangerous places in the world in the quest of more and more birds for her list. Her adventure took the next 18 years. In doing so she missed her mother's funeral, her daughter's wedding, and came within a heartbeat of divorce.
Another thing I have in common with Phoebe is having spent considerable time in Papua New Guinea. I worked there for three years. We took a car to go three blocks in broad daylight in downtown Port Moresby. It was on the outskirts of Port Moresby at dusk where Phoebe was gang raped while her guide was held at knife point. The author of this book can't seem to forgive Phoebe for not becoming an emotional wreck, "facing up" to this trauma, and abandoning her quest. Or maybe she should have given up when her boat capsized in Irian Jaya? Or when she broke her wrist in the Philippines?
I, myself, would not have had the courage to even get close to these remote locations, living rough and hiking for hours for the chance at another lifer. I can't judge Phoebe for doing it, though, and it kind of irked me that the author chose to harp on the rape and psychoanalyze Phoebe relentlessly.
All in all, if you are a birder, you won't want to miss this book. I'd like to read Snetsinger's memoirs some time soon.