What do these books set in the woods, the swamp, the jungle, and the ocean have in common? They all take place in the wilderness!
In this magical debut, a couple’s lives are changed forever by the arrival of a little girl, wild and secretive, on their snowy doorstep.
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart — he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone — but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.
This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.
My thoughts: This book is one of a handful that I can read over and over again. It truly is magical, and so beautifully written! It’s also dear to my heart because this is the novel that inspired me to look for a fairy tale on which to structure my novel, The Marsh King’s Daughter, and we all know how that turned out!
Set in 1920s Mississippi, this debut Southern novel weaves a beautiful and harrowing story of two teenage girls cast in an unlikely partnership through murder.
Ada promised herself she would never go back to the Trace, to her hard life on the swamp and her harsh father. But now, after running away to Baton Rouge and briefly knowing a different kind of life, she finds herself with nowhere to go but back home. And she knows there will be a price to pay with her father.
Matilda, daughter of a sharecropper, is from the other side of the Trace. Doing what she can to protect her family from the whims and demands of some particularly callous locals is an ongoing struggle. She forms a plan to go north, to pack up the secrets she’s holding about her life in the South and hang them on the line for all to see in Ohio.
As the two girls are drawn deeper into a dangerous world of bootleggers and moral corruption, they must come to terms with the complexities of their tenuous bond and a hidden past that links them in ways that could cost them their lives.
My thoughts: The reception for this book has been amazing. Book clubs love it, and it’s easy to see why. As rich and lush as the Natchez Trace swamps where the story takes place, Mustian’s lyrical prose combined with her deep insight into the resiliency of the human spirit make this novel shine. You know a book is good when you wish you’d written it!
In the lawless, drought-ridden lands of the Arizona Territory in 1893, two extraordinary lives unfold. Nora is an unflinching frontierswoman awaiting the return of the men in her life—her husband, who has gone in search of water for the parched household, and her elder sons, who have vanished after an explosive argument. Nora is biding her time with her youngest son, who is convinced that a mysterious beast is stalking the land around their home.
Meanwhile, Lurie is a former outlaw and a man haunted by ghosts. He sees lost souls who want something from him, and he finds reprieve from their longing in an unexpected relationship that inspires a momentous expedition across the West. The way in which Lurie’s death-defying trek at last intersects with Nora’s plight is the surprise and suspense of this brilliant novel.
My thoughts: Camels!!! Seriously, I loved Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife and couldn’t wait to see what she came up with next. I also love stories with a dose of magical realism, and this book has that and so much more. A triumph!
Laurel Hill and her precocious daughter Skye have always been each other’s everything. The pair live on Lake Superior, where the local school has classes of just four children, and the nearest hospital is a helicopter ride away. Though they live frugally, eking out a living with Laurel’s patchwork of jobs, their deep love for each other feels like it can warm them even on the coldest of nights. What more do they need?
One otherwise normal afternoon, their landlord decides to evict them in favor of a more profitable summer rental, and, without any warning, they are pushed farther to the margins. Suddenly it feels like the independence that has defined them is a liability. And when a dangerous incident threatens to separate them, Laurel and Skye must forever choose–will they leave the place they love and the hardscrabble life they’ve built to move closer to civilization, or risk everything to embrace the emptiness and wildness that has defined them.
My thoughts: A wise and touching big-hearted novel in which a young single mother and her ten-year-old daughter stand up to the trials of rural poverty and find the community they need in order to survive. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – one of my favorite places on earth!
Lily Bushwold thought she’d found the antidote to endless foster care and group homes: a teaching job in Bolivia. As soon as she could steal enough cash for the plane, she was on it.
When the gig falls through, world-weary Lily decides to stay in Bolivia when an intense passion finds her in the form she least expected: Omar, a savvy, handsome local man who’d abandoned his life as a hunter in Ayachero—a remote jungle village—to try his hand at city life.
When Omar learns that a jaguar has killed his four-year-old nephew in Ayachero, he gives Lily a choice: Stay alone in the unforgiving city, or travel to the last in a string of ever-more-isolated river towns in the jungles of Bolivia. Thirty-foot anaconda? Puppy-sized spiders? Vengeful shamans with unspeakable powers? Lovestruck Lily is oblivious. She follows Omar to this ruthless new world of lawless poachers, bullheaded missionaries, and desperate indigenous tribes driven to the brink of extinction. To survive, Lily must navigate the jungle—its wonders as well as its terrors—using only her wits and resilience.
My thoughts: I read Into the Jungle in one breathless sitting and when I finished, I wanted to stand up and cheer. Not only for Lily Bushwold’s amazing resilience and courage in the face of unimaginable hardships and challenges, but most of all, for Ferencik’s astonishing storytelling ability. Rich, raw, and real, Into the Jungle is a rip-roaring adventure like nothing I’ve read, with a heroine readers won’t soon forget. Highly recommended!
Timothy O’Day knew the woods. Yet when he disappeared on the first night of a bachelor party camping trip, he didn’t leave a trace. What he did leave behind were two heartbroken parents, a crew of guilt-ridden groomsmen, and a pile of clues that don’t add up.
Frankie Elkin doesn’t know the woods, but she knows how to find people. So when she reads that Timothy’s father is organizing one last search, she heads to the mountains of Wyoming to join the rescue team. But as they head into the wild, it becomes clear that someone out there is willing to do anything to stop them.
Soon, they’re running out of time and up against the worst man and nature have to offer, discovering the evil that awaits those who go one step too far…
My thoughts: “Master storyteller and avid hiker Lisa Gardner has written the book she was meant to write, an immersive, propulsive, utterly chilling, and yet deeply moving wilderness thriller in which her intimate knowledge of and love for the rugged Wyoming backcountry shines through on every terrifying page. Without a doubt, one of the best books I read all year.”
Lost in the wilderness: subjugation, survival, and the meaning of family.
Up on the highway, the only evidence that the Chamberlains had ever been there was two smeared tire tracks in the mud leading into an almost undamaged screen of bushes and trees. No other cars passed that way until after dawn. By that time the tracks had been washed away by the heavy rain.
After being in New Zealand for only five days, the English Chamberlain family had vanished into thin air. The date was 4 April 1978. In 2010 the remains of the eldest child are discovered in a remote part of the West Coast, showing he lived for four years after the family disappeared.
Found alongside him are his father’s watch and what turns out to be a tally stick, a piece of scored wood marking items of debt. How had he survived and then died in such a way? Where is the rest of the family? And what is the meaning of the tally stick?
My thoughts: This novel swept me up and carried away to a world I never knew and a place I’ve never been: New Zealand’s West Coast, a rough and rugged land where after just five days in the country, the entire Chamberlain family disappears. With the parents dead, what will become of the children? And what will they do to survive? Complicated moral choices elevate this richly drawn, intensely atmospheric, and absolutely stunning story of loss and endurance.
Identical twins. One wants what the other has. How far will she go to get it?
Here’s what Iris knows about her identical twin sister, Summer: Everything that belongs to Summer is perfect, from her magnificent yacht to her gorgeous husband. Summer’s life will always be better than Iris’s.
Nobody — absolutely nobody — can tell the twins apart. Even with $100 million at stake.
Against a backdrop of sparkling tropical islands, ocean storms, and outrageous wealth, The Girl in the Mirror explores the terrible consequences of greed, deadly lies, and out-of-control jealousy.
My thoughts: Rose Carlyle’s debut psychological suspense left me gobsmacked. Set against a backdrop of sparkling tropical islands, ocean storms, and outrageous wealth, the novel explores the terrible consequences of greed, deadly lies, and out-of-control jealousy. With an ending I absolutely did not see coming, Carlyle doesn’t just knock the ball out of the park—she sends it flying into the next universe.
A kidnapped little girl locked in a stranger’s van. No help for miles. What would you do?
On her way to Utah to see her dying mother, college student Darby Thorne gets caught in a fierce blizzard in the mountains of Colorado. With the roads impassable, she’s forced to wait out the storm at a remote highway rest stop. Inside are some vending machines, a coffee maker, and four complete strangers.
Desperate to find a signal to call home, Darby goes back out into the storm . . . and makes a horrifying discovery. In the back of the van parked next to her car, a little girl is locked in an animal crate.
Who is the child? Why has she been taken? And how can Darby save her? There is no cell phone reception, no telephone, and no way out. One of her fellow travelers is a kidnapper. But which one?
Trapped in an increasingly dangerous situation, with a child’s life and her own on the line, Darby must find a way to break the girl out of the van and escape. But who can she trust?
My thoughts: This intense and brutal no-holds-barred thriller features a heroine unlike any I’ve ever seen and a story I won’t quickly forget.
Max Rupert has left his position as a Minneapolis homicide detective to live in solitude. Mourning the tragic death of his wife, he’s also racked by guilt—he alone knows what happened to her killer. But then the former local sheriff, Lyle Voight, arrives with a desperate plea: Lyle’s daughter Sandy and his six-year-old grandson Pip have disappeared. Lyle’s certain Sandy’s ex-husband Reed is behind it, but the new sheriff is refusing to investigate.
When Max reluctantly looks into their disappearance, he too becomes convinced something has gone very wrong. But the closer Max and Lyle get to finding proof, the more slippery Reed becomes, until he makes a break for the beautiful but formidable Boundary Waters wilderness with vulnerable Pip in tow.
Racing after the most dangerous kind of criminal—a desperate father—and with the ghosts of their own pasts never far behind, Max and Lyle go on the hunt within a treacherous landscape, determined to bring an evil man to justice, and to bring a terrified child home alive.
My thoughts: As good as it gets. That’s all. Just read it!
It’s summer in Alaska and the light surrounding the shipping-container-turned-storage shed where Liv Russo is being held prisoner is fuzzy and gray. Around her is thick forest and jagged mountains. In front of her, across a clearing, is a low-slung cabin with a single window that spills a wash of yellow light onto bare ground. Illuminated in that light is the father of her child, a man she once loved. A man who is now her jailor. Liv vows to do anything to escape.
Carrying her own secrets and a fierce need to protect her young son, Liv must navigate a new world where extreme weather, starvation, and dangerous wildlife are not the only threats she faces. With winter’s arrival imminent, she knows she must reckon with her past and the choices that brought her to the unforgiving Alaskan landscape if she is ever going to make it out alive.
A story of survival in the wilds of Alaska, The Beautiful and the Wild explores the question of whether we can ever truly know the person we love—or ourselves.
My thoughts: The Beautiful and the Wild by Peggy Townsend is a gripping, edge-of-your-seat Alaskan wilderness survival story and so much more; a brilliantly insightful and compelling dysfunctional family drama that kept me turning the pages at warp speed. I loved this book!