Book Review Archives

Southern Sanctuary

Southern Sanctuary

By Marian Lewis
University of Alabama Press, 2015
$39.95, Hardcover


Reviewed by Dr. Sue Brannan Walker

Meet Marian Lewis. Think “sanctuary”: And thank you Marian Lewis! "Sanctuary" is not a word we hear much anymore—not before toast and tea on an ordinary April morning after a week of rain. Perhaps we do not believe that there is such a place—a sanctuary—in our too busy, often too-frenzied world of meetings, assorted appointments, and daily to-do lists: call the Critter Getters; there’s a coon in the attic. But wait! Stop! "Sanctuary" is a word synonymous with "Marian Lewis" – who has just written a gorgeous book titled Southern Sanctuary: A Naturalist’s Walk Through the Seasons published in 2015 by the University of Alabama Press. The walk begins in April—but here we are—or rather, here I am at my computer—and I haven’t yet had my cup of tea. I’m too excited about this book called Sanctuary. Indeed I am experiencing sanctuary—and I don’t have to leave my “perch” to take an excursion with Marian Lewis as she writes: “Today I begin my first exploratory excursion into the bottom-land habitat that is to become my project and passion for the foreseeable future.” A note says that her purpose on this April day is “to discover, photograph, and document spring in the Sanctuary. I follow her words and scan the fabulous photographs, follow her “down the path past the red gates into the Sanctuary. Song sparrows search for seeds. Listen.

In case you want to hear the Song Sparrow, it sings a rather loud, clanking song that consists of 2–6 phrases. The song usually starts with abrupt notes and ends with a trill. The song sparrow might add additional trills to a song that lasts a few seconds. The singer might add other adornments, other trills but note: the song patterns differ according to the species, and Marian’s birds might not sound quite like our birds—and especially so since we are listening vicariously through the pages of a book—a gorgeous book but WAIT!

Marian Lewis will be giving a workshop at the Alabama Writers Conclave in Fairhope, Alabama (University of South Alabama Campus) on July 18, 2015. Her workshop will show us how to employ Nature as a platform to creativity, to sharpen our observational skills, rekindle the thrill of discovery, and engage the senses in writing about Nature. Attendees will have the opportunity to practice observational skills, explore approaches to publishing nature-nonfiction, choose a potential publisher, and write a book proposal, developing text, avoiding research pitfalls, and finally how to revise the final book.

I can’t wait! Join the Alabama Writers Conclave. We want to meet you in Fairhope—itself a sanctuary—especially with Marian Lewis as our guide.

Dr. Sue Brannan Walker is President of the Alabama Writers’ Conclave and a former Poet Laureate of the State of Alabama.