A Life Fully Lived A review of Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Death in Africa by Mark Seal

Joan Root, lifetime conservationist and filmmaker, pioneered the filming of animal migratory patterns, befriending the animals she followed and becoming a role model for conservationists, until her unexpected death in 2006. Mark Seal, journalist and contributing editor for Vanity Fair, captured the essence of her courageous life in the book Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Death in Africa (Random House $15). Root’s story begins when the family’s monkey tries to carry her off as an infant. “From that day forward, [Root] would remain in the arms of the wild,” Seal writes.

The biography gives readers a glimpse inside Root’s thoughts and intimate moments as she struggled to find out who was killing elephants in Central Africa and kept meticulous logbooks of every animal that she nursed back to health. “Reading her diaries and letters, I realized that this amazing woman’s story demanded to be fully told, and that she had provided posterity with much of it herself,” writes the author.

From a childhood spent following her father on safaris to running her family’s booming photo-safari business; from meeting Alan Root (filmmaker and love of her life) to filming in the wilds of Africa; from campaigning against illegal poaching and fishing on Lake Naivasha to her murder in her home at the age of 69, Seal’s account covers a life that was epic in scale. “Too much in love with the lake to leave it, and too stubborn to surrender, she had made a last stand on her land,” Seal writes. “What she left behind would tell the story of what she tried to accomplish.”