Chesapeake Requiem

A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island
Narrated by: Tom Parks
Length: 12 hrs and 51 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (108 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A brilliant, soulful, and timely portrait of a 200-year-old crabbing community in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay as it faces extinction from rising sea levels - part natural history of an extraordinary ecosystem, starring the beloved blue crab; part paean to a vanishing way of life; and part meditation on man’s relationship with the environment - from the acclaimed author, who reported this story for more than two years.

Tangier Island, Virginia, is a community unique on the American landscape. Mapped by John Smith in 1608, settled during the American Revolution, the tiny sliver of mud is home to 470 hardy people who live an isolated and challenging existence, with one foot in the 21st century and another in times long passed. They are separated from their countrymen by the nation’s largest estuary, and a 12-mile boat trip across often tempestuous water - the same water that for generations has made Tangier’s fleet of small fishing boats a chief source for the rightly prized Chesapeake Bay blue crab, and has lent the island its claim to fame as the softshell crab capital of the world.

Yet for all of its long history, and despite its tenacity, Tangier is disappearing. The very water that has long sustained it is erasing the island day by day, wave by wave. It has lost two-thirds of its land since 1850, and still its shoreline retreats by 15 feet a year - meaning this storied place will likely succumb first among US towns to the effects of climate change. Experts reckon that, barring heroic intervention by the federal government, islanders could be forced to abandon their home within 25 years. Meanwhile, the graves of their forebears are being sprung open by encroaching tides, and the conservative and deeply religious Tangiermen ponder the end times.    

Chesapeake Requiem is an intimate look at the island’s past, present, and tenuous future, by an acclaimed journalist who spent much of the past two years living among Tangier’s people, crabbing and oystering with its watermen, and observing its long traditions and odd ways. What emerges is the poignant tale of a world that has, quite nearly, gone by - and a leading-edge report on the coming fate of countless coastal communities.

©2018 Earl Swift (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

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  • Overall
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great Book - Flawed Narration.

With the last name of Parks, one might think the narrator was a local. Clearly, he is not, with repeated mispronunciation of Onancock, Accomack and gunwale.

1 person found this helpful

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A Realistic Approach

Swift's book provides a pragmatic overview of the environmental crisis facing Tangier and insight into the lived experience of its residents.

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A unique place

I enjoyed learning about this unique place in the Chesapeake and its contemporary issues centered on shrinking land availability. I appreciated the author’s ability to tell the history and current stories of the islanders from different points of view. Some parts of the book were a bit repetitive but the in depth look into the community and the natural world of the island was unforgettable. I’ll be on the lookout for blue crab from Tangiers!

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A look inside

The natives of Tangier are reputed to belong to an insular community, so it was remarkable to read Earl Swift's account of his time spent on the island. His acceptance by the men and women among whom he lived for a year enabled him to describe the lifestyle of the islanders and the obstacles that they are facing as a result of climate change. The book flows easily, and is a pleasure to read.

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Chesapeake Requiem

So interesting! if you are fascinated by the Chesapeake Bay and crabs...listen to this book.

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Engaging story told well

Earl Swift spent a year living on Tangier Island getting to know the people and the place well. He tells the history of the people who have lived there, earning a living from the Chesapeake Bay by crabbing and oystering, and of the island and surrounding area and the forces that are causing it to disappear into the Bay at an increasing rate. He recounts stories from the past and present, providing insights into the people and their way of life. He is much taken with their independent spirit and warm acceptance and the difficult situation they find themselves in as their unique way of life is threatened by the water that has provided their living for so long.

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Fascinating

This is such an enjoyable listen from start to finish. Earl Swift brings Tangier to life without the use of unnecessary drama or hyperbole. He inserts just the right amount of personal insight to connect with the reader without passing judgment on his subject- a mistake many non-fiction writers make while claiming objectivity.

Tom Parks is officially one of my favorite narrators- his performance was nuanced, personal and he managed to bring people to life without resorting to crass (and unnecessary) attempts at copying the local accent.

I highly recommend for everyone- especially Chesapeake Bay locals on both the western & eastern shores!

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Made me want to visit Tangier!

Love the perspective of this author, sharing the amazing history of this island, even when it wasn't glowing. It truly left me wanting to visit this gem in the Chesapeake Bay!

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must read for the mid Atlantic

great book, great story. a real eye opener for what is happing in Virginia and Maryland.

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Badly written and badly read

The author repeats himself so many times it gets tedious very quickly.
The narrator reads like he is a news anchor who cares less about the subject matter.
I was looking forward to this book and I am so disappointed by it.