Reviews of North Woods by Daniel Mason

North Woods

A Novel

by Daniel Mason

North Woods by Daniel Mason X
North Woods by Daniel Mason
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  • Published:
    Sep 2023, 384 pages

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Book Summary

A sweeping novel about a single house in the woods of New England, told through the lives of those who inhabit it across the centuries—a daring, moving tale of memory and fate from the Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of The Piano Tuner and The Winter Soldier.

When two young lovers abscond from a Puritan colony, little do they know that their humble cabin in the woods will become the home of an extraordinary succession of human and nonhuman characters alike. An English soldier, destined for glory, abandons the battlefields of the New World to devote himself to growing apples. A pair of spinster twins navigate war and famine, envy and desire. A crime reporter unearths an ancient mass grave—only to discover that the earth refuse to give up their secrets. A lovelorn painter, a sinister con man, a stalking panther, a lusty beetle: As the inhabitants confront the wonder and mystery around them, they begin to realize that the dark, raucous, beautiful past is very much alive.

This magisterial and highly inventive novel from Pulitzer Prize finalist Daniel Mason brims with love and madness, humor and hope. Following the cycles of history, nature, and even language, North Woods shows the myriad, magical ways in which we're connected to our environment, to history, and to one another. It is not just an unforgettable novel about secrets and destinies, but a way of looking at the world that asks the timeless question: How do we live on, even after we're gone?

One

They had come to the spot in the freshness of June, chased from the village by its people, threading deer path through the forest, the valleys, the fern groves, and the quaking bogs.

Fast they ran! Steam rose from the fens and meadows. Bramble tore at their clothing, shredding it to rags that hung about their shoulders. They crashed through thickets, hid in tree hollows and bear caves, rattling sticks before they slipped inside. They fled as if it were a child's game, as if they had made off with plunder. My plunder, he whispered, as he touched her lips.

They laughed with the glee of it. They could not be found! Solemn men marched past them with harquebuses cocked in their elbows, peered into the undergrowth, stuffed greasy pinches of tobacco into their pipes. The world had closed over them. Gone was England, gone the Colony. They were Nature's wards now, he told her, they had crossed into a Realm. Lying beneath him in the litter, in the low hollow of an oak, she arced her head to ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Throughout, this loose and limber novel explores themes of illicit desire, madness, the occult, the palimpsest of human history, and the inexorable workings of the natural world (a passage recounting the fateful mating of an elm bark beetle is unforgettable), all handled with a touch that is light and sure. Like the house at its center, a book that is multitudinous and magical.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Each arc is beautifully, heartbreakingly conveyed, stitching together subtle connections across time. This astonishes.

Author Blurb Abraham Verghese, New York Times bestselling author of The Covenant of Water
North Woods is the most original and spellbinding novel I've read in ages. Mason makes bramble, brush, and orchard come alive with the spirits of their unforgettable former inhabitants. Their lives and passionate loves and their chilling acts of vengeance had me glued to my seat.

Author Blurb Anthony Marra, author of Mercury Pictures Presents
North Woods is a sui generis work of pure brilliance, an epic written with a miniaturist's precision. Daniel Mason has unearthed, in the centuries-spanning history of a single New England home, a universal story of loss and reclamation. A critic once said, 'I'd rather watch a novelist fail at jumping over skyscrapers than succeed at jumping over shoeboxes.' In North Woods, Daniel Mason has discovered the secret to leaping over skyscrapers and sticking the landing. It's the best book I've read in ages.

Author Blurb Maggie O'Farrell, New York Times bestselling author of Hamnet
North Woods is a monumental achievement of polyphony and humanity. Relating the narrative of an entire country via a single plot of land, it sweeps the reader through hundreds of years and an array of protagonists with a deft, heartbreaking, idiosyncratic zeal. I loved it."

Author Blurb Tess Gunty, author of The Rabbit Hutch
Ambitious, alive, and lush with generosity, North Woods is an immersive sprint through time. It offers an inventive portrait of the individual and the collective, a vivid history of a cabin and a country, inhabiting each of its characters with a compassion that took my breath away. I emerged from this book as though from an enchanted forest, covered in leaves and changed by what I had seen there. ... Electrifying.

Reader Reviews

Ann E Beman

novel as palimpsest about connection, to history, to one another, to our environs
To call these linked stories would do this sweeping novel injustice. The stories are rooted to the ground, overgrowing one another to create a marvelous forest -- a wondrous palimpsest. The novel's fertile ground is a single house in the woods of ...   Read More
Deborah C.

A remarkable collection of linked stories across time and space
This book might be subtitled, “What we do for love”: love of place, nature, parents, children, siblings; romantic love and illicit love, platonic and physical. This remarkable collection of linked stories is told in different voices from different...   Read More
She Treads Softly

highly recommended imaginative historical fiction
North Woods by Daniel Mason is a highly recommended imaginative historical fiction, but with a different point of reference. This is a novel about all the lives that lived in a single house in the woods of New England. The novel consists of twelve...   Read More

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