BookBrowse Reviews Out of the Woods by Lynn Darling

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Out of the Woods

A Memoir of Wayfinding

by Lynn Darling

Out of the Woods by Lynn Darling
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2014, 288 pages
    Jan 2015, 304 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky

Buy This Book

About this Book



Out of the Woods is one woman's journey learning to navigate - literally and metaphorically - the uneven course of life.

Early in Lynn Darling's Out of the Woods, her second memoir after 2007's Necessary Sins, she moves to a house she had been eyeing in Woodstock, Vermont that she christens Castle Dismal. This is vastly different from visiting over many summers and being charmed by the house, as she had done before. This is real living now, owning a dog, contending with the repairs that Castle Dismal needs, and living much more simply than she had in New York City where, ten years earlier, she had become a widow and a single mother. With her daughter away at college, Lynn decides it's time to move. After becoming a Woodstock resident, she writes, "I had proposals for a few magazine stories I needed to write, and notebooks to comb through in search of ideas for longer projects, but the assertion of authority required to unpack the boxes, the conviction that I had anything left of a writer's curiosity and passion, were packed away as well."

Even as she doubted it, her conviction was always there - and is always here - throughout this personal journey that is meant for all of us. 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 her 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, explaining how she learns to use 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.

Yet even as she goes searching for this sense of direction, trying to figure out who she is in this new stage of her life, she always holds fast to her curiosity and passion, which unfold through her gentle, appreciative, poetic writing of unforgettable, transformative experiences. It's not enough for her to only bring us along on her quest to know her part of Woodstock. She also tells the tales of such figures as Harold Gatty, who flew around the world with Wiley Post in just eight days in 1931, as well as Admiral Richard's Byrd expedition to Antarctic in the winter of 1934. Most of all, she brings so much of herself into Out of the Woods, not to rub readers' noses in how trying this experience was at times, but to make us think more closely about ourselves. The best section of this memoir finds Darling going through something she never expected while she was simply trying to know Woodstock and her neighbors: trying to create a new sense of self. It's in those pages that we're with Darling all the way, hoping she makes it through, wondering how she'll make it through, and then wondering how we would fare if an enormous life-anvil fell on us.

Despite the sometimes frustratingly slow writing, there is a lasting effect to Out of the Woods. We have been in Woodstock, getting to know Darling's neighbors, some frustrated with her early cluelessness about how life works there, we have learned about some of the shops, and we have been patient witnesses to Darling's transformation of her life and herself, as well as the transformation of Castle Dismal into a more livable way of life for her. Thinking back through all of the little and enormous moments in this book, I realized that a walk with my dogs through my usual path in my apartment complex wasn't usual at all. I was creating a map too, thinking about how well I know my home. How well do I know my streets? How well do I know my neighbors? Are they worth knowing like Darling's neighbors are? Are my local Food 4 Less and my local library as valuable to me as the town of Woodstock is to Darling, with its village library, the Whippletree Yarn Shop, the Runamuck "animal boarding and daycare business" and other places? Readers of Out of the Woods will be thinking about their environment in the same way. That is the gift Darling leaves for us.

Reviewed by Rory L. Aronsky

This review was originally published in January 2014, and has been updated for the January 2015 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Woodstocks Abound

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Ghachar Ghochar
    by Vivek Shanbhag
    The Bengaluru (aka Bangalore) that has dominated economic news headlines over the past decade is the...
  • Book Jacket: Caught in the Revolution
    Caught in the Revolution
    by Helen Rappaport
    So taken were BookBrowse's First Impression reviewers by the inside look at the start of the Russian...
  • Book Jacket: Hillbilly Elegy
    Hillbilly Elegy
    by J.D. Vance
    In this illuminating memoir, Vance recounts his trajectory from growing up a "hillbilly" in ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church

In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Mercies in Disguise
    by Gina Kolata

    A story of hope, a family's genetic destiny, and the science that rescued them.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    by Melissa Scrivner Love

    An astonishing debut crime thriller about an unforgettable woman.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

I like a thin book because it will steady a table...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O My D B

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

Modal popup -