In Gator Country, science and nature journalist Rebecca Renner delivers an astounding story about an alligator-poaching operation in the Florida Everglades. She grew up in Florida, the "swampy Deep South," one of the most biodiverse places in the country. At the age of seven, she encountered her first alligator up close, behind her family's home. By 2017, Renner was working to support herself as a high school English teacher when a student had turned in a well-informed, intimate wildlife essay on poaching--"the act of illegally taking flora or fauna from the wild"--and profiting from it. He feared Renner might snitch on him, and this planted a seed in Renner.
Years later, when she was working her way up the ranks as a nature writer for National Geographic and the New York Times, her interest in poaching resurfaced. In 2020, she became determined to learn more about alligator poaching from the points of view of the law and the poachers--those whom she identified as the economically poor struggling to live in Florida's diminishing wetlands. Her adventurous, in-depth study probes the nature of crime and human character, while also mining the far-reaching consequences of what it truly takes to survive--in the wild and in society.
Renner (Drift: Collected Short Fiction), a gifted and deeply empathetic writer, paints such sympathetic, well-rounded portraits of the justice-seeking rangers and wildlife officers versus the struggling-to-survive poachers that readers will have trouble taking sides. Her propulsive narrative reads as suspensefully as a well-wrought mystery novel as she uncovers an exciting true story that will educate, enlighten, and enthrall her audience. -- Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines