Jasper Wild if the third book in George Mercer’s Dyed in the Green. Our main protagonist, Ben Matthew’s, and his girlfriend, Kate, who are both park wardens, have transferred from Wood Buffalo to Jasper National Park. In Jasper there are a great number of concerns. First of all Ben can’t keep causing the same sort of “trouble” that he caused in Wood Buffalo, not that anyone who cared about the parks were really begrudging him for his actions – he saved the buffalo – but a similar media “stunt” in the more high-profile/public park of Jasper wouldn’t be tolerated. Politicians are scheming, there are officials who care more about getting a leg up politically than following the mandate of the service they took a career in. There is a German business man lurking around the park trying to make investments, and he has skeevy connections to things like the diamond mining in Africa. And there is Marion from Jasper Wild, a nonprofit committed to the success of the part, one of the “good guys” determined to protect Jasper, no matter the risk to her safety. Jasper Wild is the first of George Mercer’s books where Ben and Kate aren’t being moved on to another park at the end of the book. Although, technically, Ben will be doing an exchange of sorts at a park in Tanzania, but it looks like Kate will still be in Jasper in Wild Cat, (George Mercer’s next book), and I imagine Ben will be involved with both parks.
I was addicted to Jasper Wild. I was really enjoying it and tried to think of who might want to read it next. My favourite part of having physical books is deciding who I will give it to next when I am enjoying it. I tried “donating” the books to one of my friends since her and her fiancé are big outdoorsy people and I thought they’d like them, only to find out they’ve read them, her fiancé edited them, and his parents know the author and probably worked together at some point in the past. The world is such a small place.
My favourite part about Jasper Wild (and George Mercer’s other books!) is that, even though it is a fictional story, Mercer’s deep knowledge of the parks, the challenges they face, the benefits they offer, and the work parks employees have to take on really shines through. I feel like I have learned quite a bit about the parks system, including how stuff outside a parks boundaries can affect the parks, such as the oil sands upriver (downriver?), and how different people with a hand in the parks future might not always have the same agendas. That might all seem self-explanatory, but it’s really awesome seeing how this might have rolled out (and might continue to roll out) in the system.
I also like that the books are set in Canada and are about wildlife. I heard that a lot of authors are kind of obliged to set books in the US; if they put it in Toronto, it becomes New York, if it’s set in rural Alberta it becomes Wyoming or Nebraska or something like that. I’m kind of weird about really liking books that are set in other countries besides the US; I think it’s probably because we, as Canadians, are so saturated with American media that it’s really refreshing to get something from somewhere else, especially when it’s my own country. Also, given how wildlife is disappearing and climate change and how we’re only about 32 years from irreparably damaging the planet for ever, it feels really poignant to give us stories about wildlife and how the protection of those spaces are going.
Aside from the general social and environmental commentary, I actually really enjoy the story of Jasper Wild. I love the conflict between the characters. Vincent St. Blais isn’t even the biggest villain I have crossed yet I hated him, he does awful things and I love that he has motives, but he’s so self absorbed that I can’t even sympathize with him, I almost felt bad that I could tell that his ambition would ruin him. I love that Ben was having to learn that he couldn’t always speak up and that sometimes he had to play into a quieter game of politics in order to get the right thing.
I am literally so excited to read Fat Cat, George Mercer’s next book. It looks like we are following a character named John, whom we “met” in Jasper Wild to a new park in British Columbia where he will be dealing with an issue with cougars. I am hoping we will also spend a bit of time with Kate, who remained in Jasper, and Ben, who is doing an exchange in Tanzania, after all, drawing parallels between our two countries cats would be a pretty great point of connection.