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The Names of the Stars: A Life in the Wilds    by Pete Fromm order for
Names of the Stars
by Pete Fromm
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2017 (2016)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Pete Fromm grew up loving the outdoors and all things wild. His parents encouraged Pete and his brothers to roam the countryside, and Pete, particularly, loved the freedom and the adventures, both as a boy and as a young man. As a college student he worked summers for the National Park Service using his lifeguard skills to watch over people at Lake Mead, Nevada.

When he started in 1978 he had never been to the southwest and could 'not really imagine what a gigantic lake in the desert would even look like.' There were drills during the first week to introduce the new life guards to their job, during which the seasoned guards who were training them would swim out and pretend to be drowning. At that point in his training, Pete's job was 'just to sprint to a point halfway between each lifeguard tower' watching the water. As he walked back to his tower after one of these sprints, while still catching his breath, he heard calls for help coming from the water. When he saw three men struggling, he realized after a few moments of indecision that this wasn't a drill, and he swam out to them with his rescue equipment, saving someone's life for the first time in the four years he had worked as a lifeguard. He became a trusted summer employee at Lake Mead for the next few years.

Pete moved to Missoula, Montana, where he went on to become a seasonal river-ranger on the Snake and Rio Grande Rivers in Grand Teton National Park, eventually marrying and fathering two boys. After becoming a father, he settled down, more or less, until the opportunity came up for him to baby-sit some grayling fish eggs for a couple of months in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana in the spring of 2004. Although graylings were native to the Arctic, there was a small, threatened population in the high valley of Montana's Big Hole River, and it was hoped that these eggs would hatch and increase the chance of their survival. He hated leaving his boys, but couldn't resist the opportunity to be all alone out in the wilds of the Montana mountains once again.

The Names of the Stars is his account of his experiences with the grayling eggs, and also provides enough background information about his earlier employments and personal life to educate the reader about his life and why this trip was important. I thoroughly enjoyed Fromm's account, which is told with humor and a lot of self-searching. He has written several novels, short stories, and an earlier memoir; has won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award for his novels five times; and has had one of them made into a movie that was released in 2013. Although he continues to live in Montana, he is a faculty member of Pacific University Oregon's Low-Residency MFA program. This book was named an Honor Book in the 2016 Montana Book Awards.

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