Central Park Love Song is both an intimate portrait and meticulous research of America's first great public park and the most visited site in New York City. Beginning with the narrator and his dog wandering the battered but still beautiful park in the late 1970s, readers learn why the park is so large on an island so small, why it grows in the center of Manhattan, and what has been lost to the needs of an ever-changing city. These and other stories weave through the narrative as the reader and narrator discover every cave and cranny of the park's 843 acres and later see the park in new ways with his children, much as he did with his dog three decades before.
In a creative blend of fact and imagination that includes excerpts from novels, poems, essays and songs about Central Park, we visit the park during its construction, the raucous zoo hoax of 1876, and stroll with "Miss Manhattan" -Audrey Munson, model for three statues in the park and a dozen more throughout the city. We're at Jimmy Walker's glamorous Casino and the bleak Hooverville nearby, slip through a fence on summer nights to swim in the reservoir--Lake Manhattan to those who love it--and experience the wondrous gift given the park and surrounding city by the legendary hawk Pale Male; finally, we watch the Central Park Conservancy's miraculous revival of the park over the last twenty years. The book concludes at an imaginary lunch with the narrator, his young daughter, Frederick Law Olmsted and others at work on the map of "The Greensward Plan" that eventually became Central Park.
Stephen Wolf's] Central Park Love Song: Wandering Beneath the Heaventrees is an eloquent, evocative ode that encompasses New York history, past and contemporary protagonists, geography and botany so gracefully that reading his book is like, well, a walk in the park.
- SAM ROBERTS, The New York Times
Great American Read