An Extraordinary Life and Untimely Death in Africa
By Mark Seal
Random House, Hardcover, 9781400067367, 256pp.
Publication Date: May 26, 2009
Wildflower is a compelling work of narrative nonfiction in which the shocking death of a dedicated environmentalist becomes a broader story of a beautiful, breathtaking country in peril.
In January 2006, Joan Root, a sixty-nine-year-old naturalist, Oscar-nominated wildlife filmmaker, and staunch conservationist, was murdered by two masked men armed with an AK-47 shortly after midnight in her bedroom on the shore of Kenya’s beautiful Lake Naivasha. Was it a random robbery gone bad, as the local police seemed to think, or was it a cold-blooded contract killing carried out at the behest of enemies Root had made in her efforts to protect Kenya’s wildlife? Veteran journalist Mark Seal set out to investigate this gripping real-life murder mystery–and instead found an unforgettable story not only of a tragic death but of the remarkable life that preceded it.
With compassion and an unswerving regard for the truth, Seal lays bare the deeply moving, inspirational history of Joan Root, covering her early days in Kenya as a shy young woman with an almost uncanny ability to connect to animals; her whirlwind courtship with the dashing Alan Root, their marriage, and the twenty years of nonstop adventure, passionate romance, and groundbreaking wildlife filmmaking that followed, both in Africa and around the world; the shattering disintegration of the marriage and partnership; and Joan’s triumphant struggle to reinvent herself as the protector of her lakeshore community’s fragile ecosystem–a struggle that would lead to her death.
Wildflower is also the story of Kenya itself. A country blessed with unmatched beauty that is one of the last repositories of rare wildlife on the African continent, Kenya has also been scarred by decades of colonization and a culture of corruption fueled by the frequently competing agendas of conservationists and business interests. Joan Root dreamed of a bright future for Kenya and spent her life fighting with quiet heroism and courage to make that dream a reality. Her life ended too soon, but her legacy lives on.
Praise for WILDFLOWER
"[A] richly detailed portrait... Thanks to Seal's meticulous recreation, [Joan Root's] extraordinary life lives on." –People
“Exhilaratingly close-range biography.” –Vogue
“Full of letters and diary entries, [Wildflower]…boils over with romance and adventure. The film rights have been optioned by Julia Roberts’ production company. But don’t wait for the movie–grab this compelling story as soon as it hits store shelves.” –Los Angeles Times Magazine
"Deaturing an extraordinary real-life heroine, exotic settings, a love triangle, and a mysterious death, Seal's riveting portrayal of famous wildlife filmmaker Joan root is not to be missed." –Good Housekeeping
“[This is a great story built from many interviews of friends and family and from Root's extensive diaries and letters. What an adventure! What an example! Highly recommended. [Film rights were sold to Julia Roberts].” –Library Journal ( starred review)
“Sweeping and atmospheric… Seal's effort is a seamless story redolent with adventure, passion and heartbreak; its beauty nearly eclipses the tragedy of Root's untimely–and unsolved–death in 2006.” –Publishers Weekly
“Zesty biography of wildlife documentarian and conservationist Joan Root… Transports readers into the midst of an incandescent, doomed life.”
“A moving tale.”
–Celebrated Living, The Luxury Magazine For American Airlines Premium Class Passengers