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Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  721 ratings  ·  102 reviews
The Cajun coast of Louisiana is home to a way of life as unique, complex, and beautiful as the terrain itself.  As award-winning travel writer Mike Tidwell journeys through the bayou, he introduces us to the food and the language, the shrimp fisherman, the Houma Indians, and the rich cultural history that makes it unlike any other place in the world. But seeing the ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 9th 2004 by Vintage (first published 2003)
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 ·  721 ratings  ·  102 reviews


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Alisa
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Louisiana coastline is disappearing at the astonishing rate of 25 acres a day. EVERY DAY. But when you mention this to people, at best they will lament the sad sate of environmental affairs and our seeming inability to make progress on battling climate change but more likely they will just shrug their shoulders. It may be sad but what can be done? Plenty, if there was political will and money and business and government and communities working together. The reason a lot of people shrug their ...more
Gay
Dec 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who is concerned about the environment Lousiana etc
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this book shortly after Katrina. Here's the review I wrote on Amazon.

According to Michael Tidwell, in his book Bayou Farewell, twenty-five miles of Louisiana coastline disappear each year. That's 25. 2-5. And this statistic may be more dramatic in the wake of Katrina and Rita, yet most of us are unaware of what is happening in the estuaries of Southern Louisiana. The state's rich supply of wildlife, animal, marine, and avian, is threatened by the advance of the Gulf of Mexico into the
...more
Desiree
Dec 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who loves Louisiana and/or Cajuns
Recommended to Desiree by: found via Amazon from similar book review
Hands down, a must read for anyone who loves Louisiana and/or the Cajun culture. A fascinating, but sad look at the state of the culture and the State of Louisiana. As a native Louisianian, I found it difficult to read this book as it made me sad to see what's happening to the place where I was born and raised. This place is so special to me, but just like many of my fellow Cajuns, I have fled the state in search of better job opportunities. It's sad to see that a smart, motivated individual has ...more
April
Nov 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best non fiction books I've read. Tidwell does an excellent job of describing a very complex environmental and social problem with many of the details included, while making it interesting and easy to read. His experiences in the Bayou with the peoples that live on the land there are phenomenal. This book is an excellent suggestion for anyone interested in either environmental, social or travel stories. I would like to have all Americans read it.
Kurt
Feb 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
If you're from South Louisiana and you don't read this book, your Louisiana Card should be revoked.
Sean Chick
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A moving personal account of the cultures that survive on the edge of America, mostly Cajun but also Houma and Vietnamese. Written in 2003, its dire predictions and warnings hurt even more in 2018 as the world stumbles towards an environmental disaster Tidwell clearly sees. It was also interesting to read a work about a more unique cultural diversity, instead of "a hip slogan we mumbled on the way to the same melting-pot mall" to quote Tidwell. The current diversity debate, itself lacking a more ...more
Andy
Aug 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
In June, I filled in with an ecology lab at LSU's Dept. of Oceanography and Coastal Studies (basically, my friend Joe threw me a bone). This was a great way to close out my time in Louisiana--finally seeing (and trudging through) the disappearing wetlands of the state. And this book helped me pull it all together...

Louisiana contains fully 40% of the nation's wetlands, and as Tidwell explains, these aren't just mosquito-breeding fields, but rich ecosystems upon which the entire nation depends.
...more
Carolyn
Feb 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Most accurate description I've read of coastal Louisiana and Cajun culture...he does a great job of capturing the feeling of being in South Louisiana, especially the food, the people, and unfortunately the disappearing coast. I've never been so sad, proud, and hungry all at the same time while reading a book. While reading on the subway I looked up several times shocked to see that I was in NYC and not on a boat somewhere in a bayou.
Laura
Jul 16, 2008 added it
This book is about the coastal erosion of Louisiana. It is told by a man who traveled the bayous and bays of the La. coast with the people who live there. I like that it is about the people and not a just a sermon about how desperate the situation is along the coast. And the situation is extreme.
Erik Loomis
Jan 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is a first rate book on the destruction of the bayous. Also a great book for understanding why Hurricane Katrina was so destructive. It's really sad admittedly, but Tidwell is a strong writer and it's enjoyable at the same time.
Abby Eckland
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2020
Bayou Farewell is, so far, my favorite book written about Louisiana's coastal land-loss crisis. This book touched my heart in several ways. Having conducted boat-based field work in many of the same towns and waterways that Tidewell visits himself, I feel grateful that 1) many of the places Tidewell visits or discusses are still above water (major exception being Isle de Jean Charles), and 2) I was able to see and experience these landscapes and cultures before they vanish into the Gulf of ...more
Hillary
Nov 06, 2012 rated it liked it
The southern coast of Louisiana, consisting of marshy wetlands, small islands, and miles upon miles of twisting and turning bayous, is the fastest disappearing landmass on earth. And yet almost no one outside of Louisiana has heard anything about this looming environmental disaster. The southern coast contributes billions of dollars each year to the states economy and Louisiana alone produces around 30% of the nations seafood. Not to mention the fact that the southern wetlands protect the rest ...more
Sheather Nelson
Jul 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
I liked the personal stories, the great description, and the sort of outsider wonder at learning about the erosion and destruction of the Louisiana coast. As an environment reporter, I would have liked it a bit better if the author had not obviously been a travel writer amazed into writing an environmental/cultural book, because he sometimes acted so shocked by information that has been publicly available to not only scientists but politicians for decades. But then again, most Americans were ...more
Jack Perreault
Apr 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A poignant story of the disappearing wetland and an unfolding disaster. The story is told through living and working with the chief culture of the Bayou the Cajuns. The desire for oil without concern for environmental consequences has led to the disappearance of an acre of land every 20 min. and consequently the culture and homes and livelihood of the fishermen who live and work on the Bayou.
Lauren
Oct 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Thorough and engaging reporting about what is really happening to Louisiana's coast. Tidwell helps readers grasp the enormity of the problem, info you would hope that leaders/politicians and the Army Corps of Engineers would have, but it doesn't seem that way.
Brian
Dec 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: read-2009
This book was special for me. It spoke of a place, of customs, and people I'd nearly forgotten because of distance and time put between us. Through weekly talks with my parents, emails of news articles, and reading of online bayou papers I've been kept informed of the disappearing Louisiana coast. My annual trips to the bayou also remind me how fast the land is sinking. I see the differences each year and they're not subtle differences. Places I used to walk, build 'camps', sit under trees and ...more
Hannah
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: north-america
It's always interesting to get an outsider's perspective on your own culture. Sometimes he understands it very well. At other times, he misses the mark. In this case, Mike Tidwell hits the mark very well. He includes Southern Louisiana folklore, mentioning swamp Cajuns, the Houma Indians, and the Vietnamese. He impressively integrates the folklore into his devastated story about the loss of Louisiana's coastline. The lives and cultures he describes sums up many Louisianan's experiences, ...more
Gabriel
Feb 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Tidwell does an excellent job of highlighting the serious environmental threat to the Gulf Coast of Louisiana posed by saltwater intrusion into freshwater marshes. Every hour, a football-field sized area of the marsh goes underwater, permanently. And, as a result, hurricanes become exponentially more dangerous to towns that used to be miles from the coast and the fishermen that fish the coast's abundant marshes are facing the prospect of having to not only change jobs but change their lives, ...more
Sharon
Dec 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: new-orleans
I'm not going to lie; this book was a hard read. Not because it was difficult, or the vocabulary was outside my abilities, but because it talked so plainly about the loss of coastal wetlands in south Louisiana.

Journalist Mike Tidwell hitched rides of shrimp boats, crab boats, oil rig tenders and more to write what he thought would be an interesting travel story. Instead, what he got was a story that caused him to quit his job and become an environmental activist (I am not kidding). He spent time
...more
Jeannie
Oct 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Reading this over a decade after its initial release date, with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill having occurred within that span of time, I'm struck by how eerie and seemingly prophetic Tidwell's call-to-action feels in light of these disastrous events. Of course, there was nothing truly prophetic about it. The signs were all there, and the data had been accumulating for years. Until fairly recently, however, there had been no measure a la the Comprehensive ...more
Debra
Sep 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
I didn't expect to like this book, but read it because my dad suggested it. (We don't always have the same taste). It's an enjoyable and educational read. I learned about the challenges facing the Gulf Coast that were put into play long before global-warming became known. I was shocked that this is happening in our own country, yet I know more about the loss of the Amazon Rainforest than what's happening in our own back yard. And, it can be fixed if as a country we make it a priority.

Anyone
...more
David Ward
Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast by Mike Tidwell (Vintage Books 2003) (917.63). This is a tried and true environmentalist manifesto. It's partially a love song to Louisiana, to the Cajuns and the self-proclaimed Coon-Asses that live in the swamps, and to the Southwest Louisiana /French Canadian culture and way of life. It 's also partially a call to arms to support the movement to allow the Mississippi to build its levee wherever it sees fit, and ...more
Chana
Another favorite book. I learned a lot reading this book and enjoyed every word. I'm working 'how to preserve coastal Louisiana' into every conversation. I read a lot of this book out loud to my husband, we laughed so hard about some of the scenes, and I cried too. Even though we don't eat oysters, shrimp or crab I brought my kids to the seafood counter for a little education on these creatures and where they come from. Then I bought a CD of songs from the New Orleans area to benefit the people ...more
Alan Brinn
The author traveled extensively through the Louisiana coastal wetlands, driving, hitchhiking on boats, working and living with the Cajuns, Native Americans and Vietnamese who fish in the bayou and work for the oil companies. There are lyrical descriptions of the bayou country itself. You learn about these isolated cultures and how they are threatened by the destruction of the wetlands. You get a real feel for what it would be like to live in this unique eco-system. This is a gripping non-fiction ...more
Patrick Dean
Dec 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is an outstanding piece of writing about Southern Louisiana, its ongoing environmental devastation, and the vivid, tough, endearing people who live there.

Tidwell pulls no punches about the tragedy caused by the loss of Mississippi River siltation, thanks to a century of misguided Corps of Engineers behavior. However, the book offers a realistic sense of hope, mainly by way of its fascinating portraits of the Cajuns, Vietnamese, and Houma Native Americans who struggle not only with the
...more
Diana
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very powerful book that explores the role man plays in the destruction of our very livelihood, even if that role was originally looked upon as helpful. We can never know the consequences of decisions that are made, but because we have the knowledge, the skills, the ingenuity we can restore and maybe prevent further tragedies. It takes everyone to care...individuals, communities and the state and federal governments. We have to look at long term results and try to eschew the short term view of ...more
justme
Nov 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was not something I would've normally picked up but was assigned to through a class and I'm glad I read it.

Mike Tidwell renders the sheer beauty of the bayou life, surroundings, and diverse culture with precise detail in this book. If you didn't know anything about the bayou and the environmental struggles still going on, you will by the time you're done with this.

Tidwell did an amazing job at seamlessly interlacing information with narrative as he traverses the bayou, meeting a slew of
...more
Ann Porter
Jun 07, 2009 rated it liked it
I learned a lot from this book - from the life cycle of the brown shrimp to the traditions of the healing traiteur in the United Houma Nation. The book covers a broad scope of cultural and natural topics with an eye that never wavers from the theses: that the Louisiana coast is disappearing; that we will lose cultural and natural treasures forever if it's allowed to continue; and that fixing the problem is possible, but we have to MOVE. And QUICKLY.

What was most astonishing to me about this book
...more
Glenn
Oct 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This book is more than overdue. Tidwell's style is investigative and it fits well with The subject: The Death of Lousiana's Wetlands. While many think America is merely losing beautiful coast land every day, Tidwell is quick to elaborate that entire industries are being lost as well. The reader learns who is responsible for the declining area of wetlands and why policy is slow to take shape addressing the issue. This is a really good read for people already interested in the subject but possibly ...more
Megan Thomas
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Being from Louisiana, this book made me cry. It was absolutely heartbreaking to read about the unmitigated destruction of Louisiana's unique coastal lands and how it is ruining Louisiana's native people and traditions. However, Tidwell manages to beautiful push across a message of hope in the midst of destruction. If you want to read about an unique place, almost another country, right in the middle of the US, read this.
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Mike Tidwell is founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in Maryland, Virginia, and DC. He is also an author and filmmaker who predicted in vivid detail the Katrina hurricane disaster in his 2003 book Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisianas ...more

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