Official Review: Swampwise by Okefenokee Joe

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Eva Darrington
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Official Review: Swampwise by Okefenokee Joe

Post by Eva Darrington » 11 Sep 2018, 17:02

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Swampwise" by Okefenokee Joe.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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Sports cars, hairpieces, and younger women may conjure images of a mid-life crisis. But what about hunting venomous snakes and training alligators in the swamps of South Georgia? It’s certainly not a conventional remedy, but for Dick Flood, it was lifesaving.

It was 1973 and Nashville entertainer Dick Flood was at a crossroads; life on the road had dissolved two marriages, and his career was flailing. Feeling broken, Flood loaded everything in his jeep and hit the road. The next eight years would become the subject of his 2017 memoir, Swampwise. Fueled by his faith, Flood headed for Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp Park, a large wildlife tourist attraction. There he secured a job giving lectures about snakes and took on the name Okefenokee Joe.

Each chapter brings new wildlife adventures, as Joe’s responsibilities grew to include deer, black bears, alligators, and various smaller animals. From Joe’s dog Swampy, who easily had nine lives, to Oscar the ancient fourteen-foot alligator, that swamp was somehow making sense of life again for Joe. His famous gator calls and wildlife lectures drew crowds eager to learn the value of respecting and understanding animals, and most importantly, leaving them alone. “If you don’t need it leave it!” is Joe’s mantra.

There is plenty to ponder in the pages of Swampwise. Does it work to have captive and wild animals living in close proximity? What is the best fate for rescued wild animals? Does “edutainment” engender compassion for wildlife, or is it sometimes exploitive of the animals? Okefenokee Joe lives his answers in the pages of the book. Communing with wildlife is always unpredictable. Spoiler alert: Be warned, as there are some difficult scenes in the book, such as Joe’s beloved dog Swampy being killed by an alligator and an enclosure of deer being slaughtered by a pack of dogs.

Swampwise spans 200 pages and is divided into fifteen chapters. This provides a useful structure and facilitates comfortable pacing of the narrative. The text does contain quite a few editing errors. One chronic comma error accounted for most of the editing problems. The author also tended to overuse the exclamation point, which rendered it less effective. In general, though, the folksy language flowed smoothly and was easy to read.

I enjoyed Swampwise very much, and I rate it 3 out of 4 stars. While the editing errors don’t allow a perfect score, I imagine adults of all ages will enjoy the book. I appreciate the author's primary message that wildlife is to be respected and left alone. Nature and animal lovers will relate to Joe’s devotion to wildlife and his progression as a naturalist. If you are squeamish, there are just a few scenes you might want to skip over. I suspect country music fans will appreciate Joe’s story and want to look into his music. And indeed, anyone who has been faced with an unexpected bend in the road of life will benefit from this folk hero’s journey.

Since leaving the swamp three decades ago, Joe has married his love of nature with his musical talent, speaking and performing regularly at conservation events. With hundreds of songs to his credit, the octogenarian and self-proclaimed wildlife evangelist is still sharing his message. “Each of us, as individuals, need to be more careful every hour of every day, how we treat the life in the natural world around us. Our cooperation with the natural scheme of life on earth is more essential now than ever!”

******
Swampwise
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Post by CommMayo » 13 Sep 2018, 14:10

I was surprised to see this book on the site. Earlier this year, I reviewed the CD collection Okefenokee Joe put out. It was a strange combination of his songs and him reading from his book. I think I would have rather read the book you did.

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Post by kandscreeley » 13 Sep 2018, 14:11

That's quite a midlife crisis. It sounds like it would make for some great stories! I'm not sure I'm up for it right now, though I will consider if for the future. Thanks for a great review.
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Post by Eva Darrington » 13 Sep 2018, 14:24

CommMayo wrote:
13 Sep 2018, 14:10
I was surprised to see this book on the site. Earlier this year, I reviewed the CD collection Okefenokee Joe put out. It was a strange combination of his songs and him reading from his book. I think I would have rather read the book you did.
I was wondering what his music was like and hadn't gotten a chance to check it out yet. This book really is a fun sampling of all kinds of wildlife adventures. I will have to look for some of his music. Thanks for dropping in and sharing your thoughts. I will pop over and read your review, too.
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Post by Cecilia_L » 13 Sep 2018, 15:39

What an interesting story! I'm not sure I'm up for the scene described in the spoiler, but I appreciate your candid review.

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Post by Eva Darrington » 13 Sep 2018, 15:48

kandscreeley wrote:
13 Sep 2018, 14:11
That's quite a midlife crisis. It sounds like it would make for some great stories! I'm not sure I'm up for it right now, though I will consider if for the future. Thanks for a great review.
Yeah, it's quite a ride through the depths of the swamp. Thanks for stopping in and sharing your thoughts.
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. -Scott Adams

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Post by Eva Darrington » 13 Sep 2018, 15:50

Cecilia_L wrote:
13 Sep 2018, 15:39
What an interesting story! I'm not sure I'm up for the scene described in the spoiler, but I appreciate your candid review.
Yes, life in the wild isn't for the faint of heart, for sure. Thank you for dropping in and sharing a comment.
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. -Scott Adams

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Post by CryptQueen » 13 Sep 2018, 22:42

This totally sounds like fiction. What an interesting life!

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Post by Ruba Abu Ali » 14 Sep 2018, 01:51

What a journey! The spoiler might be too tough for my taste, though. Thanks for the charming and honest review, Eva! :D

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Post by Eva Darrington » 14 Sep 2018, 02:22

CryptQueen wrote:
13 Sep 2018, 22:42
This totally sounds like fiction. What an interesting life!
Yes, it really does read like fiction in places. Joe is kind of a caricature. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
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Post by Debjani Ghosh » 14 Sep 2018, 02:24

I think I will benefit from the author's advice on how to deal with an unexpected bend in one's life as I am personally going through a tough situation now. Thanks for the review!

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Post by Eva Darrington » 14 Sep 2018, 02:25

Ruba Abu Ali wrote:
14 Sep 2018, 01:51
What a journey! The spoiler might be too tough for my taste, though. Thanks for the charming and honest review, Eva! :D
Yes, there are a few tough scenes. It's a kick, though. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.
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Post by Eva Darrington » 14 Sep 2018, 02:27

Debjani Ghosh wrote:
14 Sep 2018, 02:24
I think I will benefit from the author's advice on how to deal with an unexpected bend in one's life as I am personally going through a tough situation now. Thanks for the review!
Gosh, I hope things get easier for you soon. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughtful comments.
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. -Scott Adams

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Post by inaramid » 14 Sep 2018, 09:33

I remember enjoying Jack Hanna's books on his experiences as a zookeeper. This sounds a little bit like it. The question of whether "'edutainment' engender compassion for wildlife, or is it sometimes exploitive of the animals?" got me thinking, too. Looking at it that way, it feels kind of cruel. And sad. I'd be interested to see where the author stands on this issue -- if the editing could be a bit more thorough. Thanks for this review!

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Post by jcoad » 21 Sep 2018, 16:20

I admit to watching "Swamp People" or "Gator Boys" so I actually find this book pretty cool. Great backstory to his adventure in the swamp. Sounds like a memoir with an actual story to tell. Glad I found your review and I'm excited about this book!

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