The Names of the Stars: A Life in the Wilds

Already well acquainted with wilderness at 20, Pete Fromm spent seven months in Idaho babysitting salmon eggs. He published his memoir of that experience, Indian Creek Chronicles, 13 years later, in 1993, beginning a career that combines outdoor adventure and strong writing (he's written for Gray's Sporting Journal and published numerous books and short stories). In The Names of the Stars, Fromm returns to an egg-tending gig, but this time as a very different man.

A storytelling, lunch-packing dad of nine- and six-year-old sons in 2004, Fromm sees the month-long job as an opportunity for an extended outing with the boys: fishing, hiking, chopping wood. The Forest Service, citing liability, nixes that plan. But when his wife points out, "This is who you are. You need to do this," he leaves for Montana's Bob Marshall Wilderness alone, with anticipation as well as regret.

The winner of five Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association awards, Fromm demonstrates his love of nature through shining descriptions of early spring in the wilds: bluebirds "almost aglow"; a "clot of elk"; rains "pelting, with furious gusts." His dry humor sparkles. During his daily trek through the "Hansel and Gretel" woods between his cabin and the fish eggs' Spruce Creek, Fromm repurposes his repertoire of bedtime kids' songs into grizzly-deterrent music, "rattling the cowbell, keeping time with Burl Ives, the Big Rock Candy Mountains."

Fromm considers his Wisconsin youth, college years in Montana, lifeguarding in Nevada and a season on the Rio Grande. It all leads to a life devoted to nature, and to his family; The Names of the Stars honors both. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

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