Forgive my plug, but this is important to me: This book is available at your local bookstore! If you prefer audio or ebooks, I suggest trying Kobo or Libro.fm - or asking your local bookseller. These are options that are similar in cost to Amazon, but support local economies and fairly treated employees. When signing up you can select a participating bookstore and a portion of the sales go to that store at no additional cost.
Our regularly scheduled review: I first heard of the problem of erosion in Chesapeake Bay through the story of this house on Holland Island. The story went viral and I, who had always been fascinated with stories of lost towns and cities, read as much as I could find.
This book focuses on the remote Tangier Island and the people who live there. Tangier and its population are central to the Chesapeake Blue Crab fishing industry, and most have deep roots on that island. The island is shrinking, from earliest verifiable maps it has shrunk by two thirds since the mid-19th century. Their situation makes them easy to romanticize, and it is hard to think of the homes lost, and the recurring images of cemeteries washing out to sea - many containing ancestors of current residents - is a tragic one.
Swift spends a year on the island and does his best to learn about the communities, their history, and profiles several residents. The writing is clear, and if its sentimental, it suits the subject. My problems with the book came with the hard-line conservative ethos of the island and its prejudices justified by religion. The erosion of the island has been a constant for centuries, if not millennia, but it has been hastened by climate change and rising ocean levels. This is something the people of Tangiers refuse to admit. It hardly matters, they'll be swept away regardless, but it bothered me. The island had some notoriety (already forgotten, like so much else) by its strong support of President Trump. He told them not to worry about their island, but is not likely to approve the costly breakwater necessary to saving their island when he has a fascist military parade to orchestrate. They also don't like the gays, so my personal sympathies for them evaporated
In the abstract, the problem of how to save a community from rising waters is something that is better addressed now with these front-line settlements then when we find our coastal cities even more threatened then they already are. Swift's account of the island and his point by point narration of the failure to act upon early warning signs is grim reading, but provides an important lesson.