Bodsworth, a respected ornithologist, makes us care about his fictional bird protagonist--a lone curlew in search of a mate--while still cautiously riding the line between description and anthropomorphism. Of his curlew preparing for a mate, he writes: "He waited within the borders of his territory, flying in tightening circles and calling excitedly as the other bird came nearer. The female was coming. The three empty summers that the male had waited vainly and alone on his breeding territory were a vague, tormenting memory, now almost lost in a brain so keenly keyed to instinctive responses that there was little capacity for conscious thought or memory."
The demise of this species at the hands of hunters and hungry consumers was so rapid and thorough that the "millions that darkened the sky" in Newfoundland in the 1870s during their annual migration were reduced to only a few lone fliers by the 1890s. An afterword by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann and line drawings by Abigail Rorer add context to this remarkable book. --Maria Dolan