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Cabin Fever: A Suburban Father's Search for the Wild Hardcover – June 7, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (June 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807000965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807000960
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #948,542 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


After rereading Walden in middle age, Fate began a search for a closer connection to nature, which he recounts in these delightful personal essays. Quiet, beautifully written reflections on nature and the mindful life....
--Kirkus Reviews

Recommended by USA Today

“I grew fond fast of this book, and it’s hard not to. Fate is a man who brings coyotes and cougars to the page in a thoughtful, beautiful prose that’s readable, lyrical, and begs the reader to slow down and take their time. The book is a wide, deep river, best observed with a cup of coffee as the sun’s coming up over the ridge and the night’s crickets have given way to the scratching and calls of the morning’s towhees.”—

“Tom Montgomery Fate’s charming volume is about his search for meaning in the suburbs, a search that takes him to the woods of Michigan where he builds his own cabin…What makes Cabin Fever such good reading is that the author doesn’t try to be a modern-day Thoreau…The magic of Cabin Fever is the author’s willingness to move back and forth between the two worlds of hectic suburbs and the more isolated nature-soaked cabin.”—Christian Century 

“Cabin Fever is a quietly stunning book, organized around the four seasons, much as Walden is structured…His elegant and rhythmic prose is about embodiment and the fight we must make to swim against the current that seeks to sweep us away from such bold and incarnational living…Not all books invite us to enter their lives in so intimate a fashion, to join our own patterns of living with theirs. But Fate’s admission that he is a “slow and bungling pilgrim” serves as an admonition and a blessing to his readers to go and live, even if imperfectly, this one blessed life we’ve been given.”—Brevity

“May touch a chord in a desperate urban-dweller's heart … may also show … that Mother Earth's bosom is not always welcoming to mere humans.” —Wall Street Journal

“His account of a quest for a “more deliberate life,” inspired by a re-reading of Thoreau’s Walden several years ago, is refreshingly modest but also aching with yearning for the Home we all desire.”—Christianity Today  

“His frank, poignant, and funny essays grapple with the quandaries inherent in the effort to live a balanced life. Fate’s clarion musings on place, time, family, social responsibility, the wild, and the civilized are thoughtful and affecting in their revelations of how complex and precious life is.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist, starred review, May 1, 2011

"Never snide or condescending, Fate blends the significant milestones of marriage and family in a high-tech BlackBerry society with the joys and shortcomings of being mindful in both cultures." —Publishers Weekly

“The tone of Fate’s writing is serious and thoughtful, yet laced with some humor (particularly the chapter in which he imagines a gay relationship between two male cardinals)… Fate is introspective and writes in a lyrical manner, offering much food for thought in this multi-layered, 'how to live” memoir.'” —Hilary Daninhirsch, Foreword Reviews

“This quietly marvelous book is really a mystery novel at heart. The mystery is How to live?  Tom Montgomery Fate, a self-described ‘slow and bumbling pilgrim,’ sets out to answer this question, meandering, with Thoreau as his companion, toward the truth--or more accurately, the truths.  Henry David Thoreau has never been more relevant than he is today, and what a pleasure to follow the two of them sleuthing toward something solid in these fickle and shifting times.”—David Gessner, author of Soaring with Fidel and The Tarball Chronicles
“With Thoreau as his guide, Tom Montgomery Fate explores a wild territory where Henry himself never dared to venture: marriage, parenthood, and the suburban backyard.  Along the way, he shows us how to embrace the challenges of our world, and our daily lives, with new grace, restoring us to the place where we should all be living: in gratitude and wonder. A profound and beautiful book.”—John T. Price, author of Man Killed by Pheasant and Other Kinships
“In Cabin Fever, Tom Montgomery Fate has written a book as wise as it is charming.  Fate, in his deeply informed dialogue with Thoreau, never dodges the many realities of American middle-class existence that might lead to a life of quiet desperation.  Still, Cabin Fever is, finally, not a book about avoiding desperation but achieving balance.”—Stuart Dybek, author of The Coast of Chicago
“Tom Montgomery Fate resonates with Thoreau without needing to be Thoreau. His Cabin Fever echoes Walden without pretense. It is a book for our time by a writer of our time. Fate proves himself against his transcendental literary ancestor and, in the process, gives us a contemporary book of thought, hope, and promise. Cabin Fever is an antidote to the ills of the day.”—Jeffrey S. Cramer, editor of Walden: A Fully Annotated Edition and curator of the Thoreau Institute

“Quiet, beautifully written reflections on nature and the mindful life, laced with the thoughts and writings of Thoreau.” —Kirkus

About the Author

Tom Montgomery Fate is the author of four books, including the collection of essaysBeyond the White Noise and the spiritual memoir Steady and Trembling. His essays have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Orion, Iowa Review, Fourth Genre, Christian Century, and many other publications, and they often air on NPR's Living On Earth and Chicago Public Radio. He is a professor of English at College of DuPage in Illinois, where he  lives with his family. His cabin is in southwest Michigan.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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See all 10 customer reviews
Kudo's to the author!
You could say that Tom Fate's cabin fever extends to wherever he is.
We were delighted with this book.
Curious and carefree

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By wogan TOP 100 REVIEWER on July 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Tom Fate's `Cabin Fever' is a book that at first seems too much of a paean to Thoreau; and one wonders at a point if this escape to the wild is an excuse to leave the wife and three children, even though they're included on some of the trips.
He divides his musings into spring, summer, autumn and winter; so we do not really even start out with the construction of his cabin in the woods near Lake Michigan. It is a reminiscence later in the pages. His purposes of escape are sometimes not very clear and one realizes that typing on a laptop by candlelight is perhaps his modern version of Thoreau writing his observations, which are frequently quoted and read by Tom.

Where the book starts to come alive are his observations of suburban wildlife, birds, cicada, his family and even his wife's operation and her recovery. We begin to appreciate his study of his time in the woods as well as his almost disastrous episode in trimming trees in his backyard, his experience pretending to know what he is doing in selecting 2X4's in the lumberyard and learning what he is really looking for.
He brings the wonder of coyotes at O'Hare Airport and the realities of the death of the family cat to his writing..
This is not just a solitary trip into the woods and the cabin, it is a revelation of nature around us wherever we live and a reading that grows on you as you journey through his year.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By erin29 on July 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The author does a fantastic job about making us think about nature - and our place in the world. I think this is a great book because, while it mentions Thoreau and all the environmental stuff, it clearly has been created for the average person living in suburbia. I like it because it shows his journey of seeing nature and life everywhere. A nice book in helping people understand and better appreciate the world around them.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Corinne H. Smith VINE VOICE on August 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
From its title and cover art, this book at first glance appears to be a getting-away-from-it-all retreat: one in which the author moves into a hut in the wilderness, experiences various aspects of Nature, gradually grows to adapt to said environs, and shares the learning process with us. That's not entirely the case here. Like many "South Siders" of the region, Tom and his family divide their time between the hectic life of the Chicago suburbs and the respite offered by the small vacation cabin they own a few hours away on the other side of the lake, in southwestern Michigan. This, then, is a collection of nineteen nature-oriented essay-musings penned by someone who lives in that see-saw world.

Each chapter begins with an inspirational quote from Henry David Thoreau. And even though Tom is an avid re-reader of the book Walden: Or, Life in the Woods, you don't have to be familiar with the Transcendentalist's writings yourself to understand his context here. The essays are arranged generally by season, Spring through Winter. In many of the offerings, the author proves that you can witness amazing things if you simply pay attention to what's going on around you. Some of his sightings are bound to stick with you. The one that will remain with me is the tale of three birds working together toward a common goal. But the reader should be warned that the image of Nature is not sanitized here. Even the Disney folks would be hard pressed to put a musical spin on the outcome of some of Tom's reports. This is Real Life, and yes, much of it is Wild.

Perhaps Tom Montgomery Fate seeks that same "Wildness" that Mr. Thoreau was ever traipsing after.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Curious and carefree on February 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having read "Walden" several years ago, my book club found this a welcome return to Thoreau's key ideas. And it's a very engaging read. Tom Montgomery Fate has written a heartfelt, amusing and thoughtful book. He takes us on his personal journey to create meaning in this busy, technology-filled world; to lead a conscious life;

Members of the book club spoke of how this book resonated with them on many levels: our daily responsibilities which can overwhelm our connection to nature and ultimately to our inner selves. Many felt his search for balance, attentiveness and creativity serves as an antidote to the pressures of daily life. We were delighted with this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Timothy J. Riley on September 22, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Tom Fate is an excellent writer and his style is very unique. This is a series of individual memoirs and if you are a fan of Thoreau, you will love this. I know I did. Fate is someone that I learned about in a graduate class and will follow in the future.
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