Home > I. Books > The Golden Spruce–A Book Review

The Golden Spruce–A Book Review



The Golden Spruce, by John Vaillant, is one of the most riveting books RT has read in some time. To begin with, the bones of the story are amazing: in brief, to protest the over-exploitation of British Columbia’s immense timber reserves, a former logger named Grant Hadwin cut down an extremely rare genetic sport, a Sitka Spruce with golden needles, that was sacred to the Haida People of the Queen Charlotte Islands, where the tree was located.

Hadwin cut down the GS in January 1997; he disappeared on his way to a court hearing a month later and has not been found since.


This event spreads it roots out into many fields: culture, religion, history, biology, forestry (and especially its political aspects), biography, mental illness, and plain old reportage. But what holds the book together is Vaillant’s storytelling abilities and precise control of voice, which takes the reader from a  technical but accessible account of the GS’s genetic mutation, through the history of the Queen Charlottes (and the powerful Haida culture that preceded the arrival of Europeans), to a description of the Islands’ ecosystem, and, perhaps most importantly, to Hadwin’s life and unknown fate.

The logging, destruction, or killing, whichever is correct, of the Golden Spruce created a wave of intense grieving and anger among the Haida that eclipsed the issue that Hadwin wanted to draw attention to: the industrial logging of the vast British Columbia rainforests. The GS, 300 years old at the time of its passing, figures prominently in Haida spiritual life and the community’s intricate chain of sacred stories. Though the Haida themselves have participated in the logging of timber from British Columbia (and in environmental protests), this tree was special. Few other stories can evoke the collision of native culture, nature conservancy, logging and international commerce, and the life of a pristine ecosystem as compellingly as Vaillant’s.

And to present the viewpoints of all the parties involved (and in particular, Hadwin’s) in a sympathetic, comprehensive manner is also no small feat. What started out as a logger’s wilderness epiphany in British Columbia has sent shock-waves around the world.

By all means, if you have a moment, pick up a copy of The Golden Spruce and lose yourself in the complexities of an amazing man, people, place, and time.


And here is a link to the book’s Amazon Listing.


PhotoPicea sitchensis foliage, Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Author: Roland Tanglao.  WikiCmns; CC 2.o Generic.

  1. April 6, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    Thank you for posting this great review! I have read this book and it is a powerful, wonderful, heart-retching story. I won’t say anything more because I don’t want to ruin it for anybody. Just pick up a copy!

    • April 6, 2013 at 7:38 pm

      t4t: thanks for your enthusiastic support! it always helps… RT

  2. April 8, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    Thanks for the recommendation! Makes me want to pick up a copy right away.

  1. May 20, 2013 at 5:33 am
  2. June 7, 2013 at 2:53 am

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