Coming Full Circle
Budd Titlow and Mariah Tinger
Olympia Publishers (2022)
Reviewed by Rachel Deeming for Reader Views (11/2022)
“Coming Full Circle” by Budd Titlow and Mariah Tinger is an ambitious work of fiction which sets out to describe, in terms of the generations of one family, how we should consider ourselves custodians of, rather than dominators of, this planet called Earth.
Starting with the new settlers who travelled west through America to make homesteads and new lives for themselves, this book goes from the 1700s into our near future, a vast timescale to cover. I thoroughly liked what it set out to do: the shared passion for conservation of one family being passed down through their lineage, shown in their love and respect for the environment through different political and social circumstances reflective of the concerns of the periods in which they lived; for example, from the hunting of bison to near extinction, to the killing of birds for their feathers to decorate hats, to the mass production of oil for our consumption. Titlow and Tinger frame their narrative around key environmental pointers of America’s history and use this to great effect to project their message. And there is a message within this eco-novel and a very serious one at that – that we need to live in harmony, seeing ourselves as part of the whole, with our living environment and respect and care for it and everything that lives in it with forethought and a view to conserving it… before it’s too late.
In terms of conveying this message, the book is effective and there were times while I was reading it where I felt a true sense of loss as well as anger at the way that humans have used the earth and its resources solely as something to be exploited for their own ends. I felt guilt too that I am part of that. For arousing these feelings, the book is worthy of four stars, in my view.
However, there were times where I felt like the book was a little repetitive, especially where meetings were depicted and the characters were called upon to speak at conferences and public debates, for example. I understand that within the narrative, these were useful vehicles to discuss wider issues and that in having characters presenting them to others or talking about them, they become an integral part of the story. However, I felt like this overshadowed the characters a little and their interaction; they became the puppets to convey the message rather than characters in their own right. Remarkably, the characters at the beginning of the book have less dialogue, but I had a greater idea of them as people than I did characters in the latter part of the book and this, for me, was a shame as I felt more like I was reading views and policies rather than a story.
That being said, there is a lot in this book that makes it worth reading and a worthy read. It is a text for our times and presents us with views that are generally derided, to our peril, but “Coming Full Circle” takes the time to depict them in a way that makes them accessible and relatable, and this is to be applauded.