Thursday, July 29, 2010

An Eagle Named Freedom: My True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by Jeff Guidry is a memoir about a man, an eagle, and survival.  Meant to be an inspiring look at life and how relationships can be nurtured, Guidry shares his story of working as a volunteer with the Sarvey Wildlife Care Center with an emphasis on the eagle the center rescued.

In many ways, Guidry writes an impersonal memoir.  So much of his story is left to the reader’s imagination.  What he does for a living outside of his volunteer work is never clearly mentioned (although he makes allusions to a past-career as a musician) nor are we told how he met his significant other.  His relationship with his parents seems close but we never hear about his childhood or any of the things that might define him as an adult.

In fact, the book is full of allusions.  Guidry especially mentions the myths and legends of indigenous tribes but because he never actually shares any of these stories the reader is left to take him at his word.  I think this is an unfortunate choice on his part.  The animal myths would have added a depth to the memoir and infused the rescue mission with a relevance above and beyond the mere fact that animal life is precious.

Another failure on the book’s part is more subjective.  When I chose to read this book I was eager to learn more about eagles–their history, their nature, how they live, breed, behave, etc.  I had read other animal related memoirs and learned a great deal about specific species and humanity’s impact on survival of the natural territory, etc.  Although these things are mentioned or merely alluded to, Guidry never takes the time to fully explore these things alluding to the population crisis the bald eagle faced due to the use of DDT (which is now banned in the United States and elsewhere).

I almost wish Guidry had co-authored this book with an eagle expert or perhaps a great story-teller who could have offered the reader more content rather than the constant allusions.  I also wish that his editor had removed some of the redundancies.  Rather than sounding like chattiness or conversational, the reiterations quickly become tedious.  Or perhaps it is because the book itself is a quick and easy read.

Having said all this, I can’t really complain about the memoir.  It’s good.  Even good enough.  It’s not great.  It clearly could have been better.  But it is a nice story and even inspired.  It simply fell flat for me.

PS: I did not mention in the above review my dislike for Guidry’s need make everything have meaning.  Nothing is mere circumstance to him and everything he experiences is immediately made into something metaphysical.  And just in case you might have missed the metaphor’s meaning, he explains it to you.  I don’t know if everything has to have meaning.  Some experiences are merely coincidence.  In fact, there are people who argue that it is all coincidence and merely a human need for relevance that drives us to give happenstance more meaning.  After reading this memoir, I can see why some people are so cynical.  Lovely though transcendent moments may be, their meaning is often so subjective it is best to keep them personal.

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