Bonnie Brody's Reviews > The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed

The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant
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Mar 07, 12

Read in March, 2009

This is a very well-written and interesting book. It has several plots, each of them holding the reader's interest throughout the book.

One of the plots deals with the history of logging in the northwest, specifically in Alaska where the Haida Indians live. The Haida live in a very remote area of Alaska, difficult to get to and accessible only by air or boat. On the islands they call home, there is an amazing tree - a Golden Spruce. The Haida have incorporated this tree into their spirituality.

The book also deals with the history of this tree. Because of its color, it is an obvious mutation. How it came to be, how it survived, and how it is now replicated is a theme of this book.

The most striking plot that weaves in and out of the whole book is the story of a man named Hadwin, an extreme athlete also known for his eccentricity and confrontational manner. Hadwin has destroyed this tree and disappeared. Supposedly he drowned in the turbulent Alaskan waters. However, because of his ability to survive the most extreme conditions, there are many who think he faked his death and still lives.

My only difficulty with this fascinating book is the portrayal of Hadwin. As a clinical social worker, I am very familiar with serious and chronic mental illness. What the author portrays as a variant of the norm is actually something far more serious. Anyone who has to stuff cotton in their ears to keep the voices at bay suffers from auditory hallucinations. Hadwin has a history of hallucinations, paranoia and varied delusions. To discuss him as an eccentric or quirky type of guy is to do injustice to the fact that this man is very, very ill.

All in all, I found this book to be a fascinating page-turner, one I highly recommend.
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