The Very Rich Hours
Travels in Orkney, Belize, the Everglades and Greece
by Emily Hiestand
Beacon Press, 1992
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One of the five best travel books of 1992
—San Francisco Chronicle-Examiner
Travel writing is a demanding genre. At its best, it is an exquisite mix of the personal,
the philosophical and the factual—artfully propelled by vivid description. That's not an easy balance to achieve. But Emily Hiestand gets its just right in The Very Rich Hours.
Kirkpatrick Sale, author, The Conquest of Paradise
If one must travel, one should do it with the eyes of a child, the mind of an ecologist,
the heart of a pagan, and the words of a poet. Astonishingly, Emily Hiestand has all
The Washington Post
Here is a dazzlingly different kind of travel book. And it’s just in time too, for a genre that was in danger of running to ground in the old ruts. Deftly, Hiestand moves from specific physical observations to her big philosophical question: What is right habitation? As she travels, she looks closely at our world and thinks hard about why and how we are to live in it. It is a rare experience.
There are travelers—clutching cameras and maps, timidly seeking the familiar, and then there are explorers—those who travel to challenge themselves, to learn. Emily Hiestand is one of the latter. In The Very Rich Hours, Hiestand raises the art of travel writing to a new level.
Patricia Hampl, author, A Romantic Education
In these fresh accounts of far-flung locations, Hiestand keeps returning us to the profound questions not of exploration, but of home. That is the book's great discovery: we’re in this together, wherever we are.
The Boston Globe
Hiestand journeys in this altogether terrific book to the far reaches of the human heart as well as to places for which there are maps. Her language is special. It is also, in the best sense of the word, “poetic”: precise, intense, compacted, and full of surprises.
Categorizing The Very Rich Hours as a travel book seems at first an underestimation of its scope, but this tour de force of personal narrative is indeed an odyssey of sorts, a rich and rewarding literary journey told with the voice of a poet and the heart of a consummate observor...This is a rare book, astonishingly fluid and keenly observant.
Robert Finch, editor, Norton Anthology of Nature Writing
The most exciting travel writing I have read in years. These pieces are, in the best sense, world-views... The style is an expression of good manners, good intellectual manners.
Franklin Burroughs, author, Billy Watson’s Croker Sack
Emily Hiestand encounters flora and fauna, myths and language, history and ecology as participants in an ancient, discontinuous colloquy. As she eavesdrops, she must reconstruct, by conjecture, wit, and erudition, the contexts and issues. Her range of references is wide and unexpected, and she is a wonderful observer. But what holds the book together is a wry and elegant dexterity of intelligence, a sense of humor that engages both the solemn revelations and the undignified exasperations of travel with precision and elan.