Summary and book reviews of Out of the Woods by Lynn Darling

Out of the Woods

A Memoir of Wayfinding

By Lynn Darling

Out of the Woods
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2014,
    288 pages.

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Book Summary

Combining the soul-baring insight of Wild, the profound wisdom of Shop Class as Soulcraft, and the adventurous spirit of Eat, Pray, Love: Lynn Darling's powerful, lyrical memoir of self-discovery, full of warmth and wry humor, Out of the Woods.

When her college-bound daughter leaves home, Lynn Darling, widowed over a decade earlier, finds herself alone - and utterly lost, with no idea of what she wants or even who she is. Searching for answers, she leaves New York for the solitary woods of Vermont. Removed from the familiar, cocooned in the natural world, her only companions a new dog and a compass, she hopes to develop a sense of direction - both in the woods and in her life.

Hiking unmapped trails, Darling meditates on the milestones of her past; as she adapts to her new surroundings, she uses the knowledge she's gained to chart her future. And when an unexpected setback nearly derails her newfound balance, she is able to draw upon her newfound skills to find her bearings and stay the course.

In revealing how one woman learned to navigate - literally and metaphorically - the uneven course of life, Out of the Woods is, in the words of Pulitzer-prize winning author Geraldine Brooks,  "a marvelous book... both a compass and a manifesto for navigating the often-treacherous switchbacks of the second half of life."

Getting lost is easily avoided, say people who never get lost. Pay attention along the way. Keep track of the sun and the shape of the horizon. Turn around, every now and then, and look back at where you've been. Remember landmarks. Keep in mind your panic azimuth. Take your compass, take your bearings, take your time.

But sometimes, you don't pay attention. Sometimes, beguiled by the beauty of the passing moment, you walk along the path you chose a long time ago without noticing the subtle turn it has taken, the darkening sky, or the slight rustle in the leaves that means the wind is coming up. Something disturbs your mazy thoughts: a movement, swift and silent, catches at the corner of your eye. A twig snaps. The shadows begin to steal uncomfortably close. You quicken your pace. You come to a place where one path crosses another, and you stand, hesitant at the crossroads, as the trails diverge into the darkness like the spokes of a mysterious wheel. You hope that ...

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Darling is most certainly a writer’s author, giving out words such as evanescence and synecdoche, which are just a joy to read. But there are also many times when it’s impossible not to scream at Darling to stop dallying about and get on with it, especially in the latter half of the book, when she describes a course she takes in navigation; when she explains learning about using a compass in order to, ultimately, find her way without a compass. She’s an Author! These are Sentences! Yes, they’re beautifully-written sentences, but they gum up the works. Darling's long-windedness inspires the desire for a lit firecracker to be inserted into the book in order to speed it up at times.   (Reviewed by Rory L. Aronsky).

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Media Reviews
Author Blurb Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March and Caleb's Crossing
Like Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, but by a writer who has had a lot more tread scorched off her tires than the young and idealistic Dillard; both a compass and a manifesto for navigating the often-treacherous switchbacks of the second half of life. A marvelous book.

Author Blurb Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion
What do we do when life unfolds in unexpected ways - which is to say, when life unfolds, full stop? We cave, or we persevere. We grow rigid and numb, or, like the inimitable Lynn Darling, we come to know ourselves, with courage and a beautiful, stumbling grace.

Author Blurb Meredith Hall, author of Without a Map: A Memoir
In beautiful and surprising prose, Darling invites us to wander with her as she circles and roams and ultimately claims her own destiny.

Author Blurb Katrina Kenison, author of Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment
This wry, intimate, deeply courageous memoir will speak to any woman who has rounded the corner into the afternoon of life, only to find herself pausing to wonder, Which way now?

Author Blurb Nora Gallagher, author of Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic
You'll find no easy answers in this memoir of finding one's way out of grief and loss and illness; instead, a trustworthy guide, a true compass.

Booklist

Darling has written a fierce and forthright chronicle of one formidable woman's courageous journey of healing and revelation, gratitude and resilience.

Kirkus Reviews

Haunting and lyrical, Darling's journey through unknown forests, both physical and emotional, resonates with longings, hopes, fears and a stalwart courage to conquer them all. Evocative ruminations on getting older and discovering the links between nature and self.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [A] a radiant, brave memoir.

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Woodstocks Abound

Norman Williams Public LibraryMany Woodstocks come to mind when reading Out of Woods, Lynn Darling's memoir about her move to Woodstock, Vermont. The first is, of course, the legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969, which was actually held in Bethel, New York after the towns of Wallkill and Woodstock refused the request for a permit. But there are many others. Here are glimpses of some Woodstocks in the United States, including Vermont's:

stagecoach leaving Overlook Mountain House in 1905Woodstock, New York comes first, founded in 1787 when people moved in number from cities into the Catskill Mountains. It became the premier space for arts, crafts and music in 1902 when Ralph Whitehead, Bolton Brown, and Hervey White created the first artists' colony there, bolstered by its creative energy and its proximity ...

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