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Life List : A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds
"This is not...the story of a little old lady in tennis shoes who saw a lot of birds...[A] well-told story that carries you along as if on wings."--Hartford Courant
At age forty-nine, Phoebe Snetsinger, frustrated homemaker, mother of four, and amateur birdwatcher, was told she was dying of cancer. She decided to spend the little time she had left seeing as many birds as possible around the world. But against all odds, her cancer went into remission, and she ended up taking hundreds of bold, adventurous trips to all seven continents and seeing more species than anyone in history--at great cost to her family and her safety. Life List is the story of a woman who found refuge from society's expectations in a dangerous and soul-stirring obsession.
In this biography of bird enthusiast Phoebe Snetsinger, former journalist Gentile wonders whether there is a line between dedication and obsession, and when does obsession cross the line into pathology? Married, with four children, Phoebe was a frustrated 1950s housewife who began experiencing a depression that felt like she was inside a tomb. Her introduction to bird-watching by another shy, brainy housewife, seeing a warbler through binoculars, was a revelation; it was as if she'd seen a blinding white light. With the help of a local birding club, Phoebe began her life list of birds and gradually began traveling farther afield in search of new sightings. Diagnosed in her late 40s with incurable cancer and less than a year to live, she threw herself into birding, traveling worldwide, ignoring injury and danger to work on her life list for another 18 years, until killed in a bus accident in Madagascar at the age of 68. Gentile's ambivalence, celebrating Snetsinger's having lived so fully and with so much spirit but noting that she had lost the capacity to take into account her family, her health and her safety, adds a reflectiveness that Phoebe herself may have avoided in life. (Apr.)
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March 29, 2009
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