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Out of the Woods: A Memoir of Wayfinding Hardcover – January 7, 2014


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The carefully constructed home Darling had created in her Manhattan apartment began to fall apart when her husband died. When their only child left for college, and the nest emptied completely, Darling knew she had to reinvent or rediscover herself lest she succumb to the cumulative grief of both events. She abandoned the verve and bustle of New York for the pervasive solitude of Vermont, buying a remote backwoods cabin that could only generously be called rustic. Darling discovers that what she doesn’t know about rural life is nearly eclipsed by what she doesn’t know about herself, yet her determination to learn not only how to live but how to survive is a project she embraces with a journalist’s passion for truth and fact-finding. Along with unrelenting loneliness and unyielding Yankee stoicism, Darling also confronts her own mortality when she is diagnosed with breast cancer. Darling has written a fierce and forthright chronicle of one formidable woman’s courageous journey of healing and revelation, gratitude and resilience. --Carol Haggas

Review

“A thought-provoking, poignant and often refreshingly funny book….It is a pleasure to spend time with Darling’s fine writing, thoughtful reflection and perhaps a more trustworthy sense of direction than she is willing to claim.” (Reeve Lindbergh, Washington Post)

“There have been many accounts of conquering nature and disease. But Darling melds her extreme adventures in the woods and in the doctor’s treatment room with brilliance and poetry….Wonderful.” (Judy Bolton-Fasman, Boston Globe)

“Darling is a dazzling writer, able to capture the image of ‘an apple blushing on the scraggly tree’ or the lingering grief of her husband’s death with a beautiful, sometimes tender, immediacy….The heft of this story is in her intelligent questioning of her past and future….Fascinating.” (Leigh Newman, New York Times Book Review)

“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.” (Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March and Caleb's Crossing)

“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.” (Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion)

“Lynn Darling is a compelling character, smart and irreverent and earnest in her effort to find her way into the future. In beautiful and surprising prose, Darling invites us to wander with her as she circles and roams and ultimately claims her own destiny.” (Meredith Hall, author of Without a Map: A Memoir)

“Striking in its intelligence and imagery…Darling’s personal version of Dante’s dark night of the soul will resonate with many empty nesters, especially women….A compelling story of internal exploration, as well as outward-bound adventure that owes something to Henry David Thoreau and Virginia Woolf.” (Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air)

“A graceful, intensely personal coming-of-middle-age story….Like the megaselling memoirs by Cheryl Strayed and Elizabeth Gilbert, it lays out a concrete, mappable-albeit open-ended-plan for self-betterment through travel and discovery.” (Elle)

“Darling has written a fierce and forthright chronicle of one formidable woman’s courageous journey of healing and revelation, gratitude and resilience.” (Booklist)

“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? Lynn Darling was lucky enough to get utterly lost, and then brave enough to chart her own course home.” (Katrina Kenison, author of Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment)

“Lynn Darling is everything I love in a writer: smart, honest, gimlet-eyed. Every sentence worth its weight. 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.” (Nora Gallagher, author of Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic)

“Darling’s memoir navigates the geography of loss with a fresh, lush beauty….This is really a book about solitude, with Darling’s ironic wit (often directed at herself) cutting a sharp path through the wandering richness of melancholy.” (More Magazine)

“Fans of Wild and Eat, Pray, Love will relish seeing Darling find her footing.” (Fitness Magazine)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061710245
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061710247
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #407,843 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lynn Darling is the author of Necessary Sins. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Esquire, Harper's Bazaar, and Elle, among others. She lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

This book made me think twice about my own middle age and how I'd like the future to go.
BB
This author is a wonderful writer; she has great observation skills and the words just flow from her soul.
~Kiwi~
I really tried to like this book - I'm also middle aged and two of my four kids have left for college.
Lisa Kearns

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Quickbeam VINE VOICE on January 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I in no way mean to be cruel but I am Darling's age and lived most of my life on the east coast. I know how much things cost including private school, expensive college, trips abroad and an apartment in New York. In this memoir, Darling copes with empty nest status by buying a home in Vermont (while keeping the NYC loft). I think the book is overly coy about the author's financial situation. The math does not add up. Self deprecating, the author writes of her ineptitude with direction and home maintenance. I think she is aiming for an Erma Bombeck style of "woe is me" humor but it doesn't quite work for me.

Darling peppers her memoir with historical asides and new age-y quotes.That gets old quickly. Darling does write well and has an engaging style. I became impatient with the frequent sojourns in to history. I admire Darling's success in taming her demons. She does ***spoiler alert*** end up back in New York City, making the Vermont content feel like a prolonged rustic vacation.

Anyone looking for a true rustic living experience would be better served by Anne LaBastille's "Woodswoman" which provides a far more competent and genuine feel for wilderness life. This book might well appeal to those unbalanced by loss and looking to find a kindred spirit for those first baby steps of independence. I do like Darling's prose style and would enjoy more of her work that was less autobiographical.
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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Isch TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
At 56, journalist Lynn Darling found herself alone for the first time. Her husband had died of cancer 12 years earlier and now her only child was heading for college. Feeling the need to create a new life for herself, she sublet her New York apartment and off she went to Woodstock, Vermont, where she'd often vacationed, to find a house to buy and live in year round. Turns out the only one she could afford was an oddly constructed and not quite finished little house, off the beaten track, down an unmarked dirt road and surrounded by woods--an abode she'd later come to call "Castle Dismal."

Before long, she'd come to realize that her lifelong lack of any sense of direction could become quite an impediment when living alone in the woods. Eventually she'd get some help learning the right way to use maps and compasses and other tricks and techniques for finding your way, which she kindly shares with the rest of us. Along the way to finding that way she'd make some friends, have a go at online dating, get herself a dog, learn the difference between a weed and wisteria and be diagnosed with breast cancer--an ordeal she'll invite readers along on, but one with a happy ending. This chronicle of three years in the life of a highly talented and forthright writer makes a good read indeed. And I highly recommend it.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By G. Uhl on December 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Take Henry David Thoreau, time travel him to 2013, change his gender and "Bingo", you've got 'Out of the Woods'.

When I first read Thoreau I was in my very early twenties. I remember thinking what a load of crap. He claims to have gone into the woods to live deliberately and suck the marrow out of life when all I could see was that he free loaded off Emerson and was an artsy bum. Even 'On The Duty of Civil Disobedience', I loved the words but I always thought this man did not really suffer for the cause at all.

Anyways, now I'm approaching 50 and I see it all so differently. I love Thoreau and the Idea of going to the woods to find yourself and figure out what it all means. I love books about survival in the wilderness and especially women making their way in a rough setting.

Darling is at that stage where her role as mother and daughter are both changing. You have sometimes this brief period of time where you have a break between caregiver of your children and care giver of your adult parents. And in this case the author is faced with a life crises during this time and is forced to care for herself.

I love the way the book is sprinkled with passages about wilderness training and passages about folks who have gotten lost and about tricks to navigate terrain/life. I think it's a clever memoir, nicely balanced.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Paul Allaer TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Out Of the Woods: A Memoir of Wayfinding" (262 pages) is the latest from long-time writer (and erstwhile Washington Post journalist) Lynn Darling. As the book opens, we learn that Darling's world is about to be shaken up when her only child, a daughter called Zoe, is about to depart for college. This is a rather traumatic event in Darling's life, as it will make her an empty-nester (we learn that her husband passed away when Zoe was only 6 years old). Observes Darling: "My daughter's departure left questions, big questions, that her presence and the warm hive of family life had made it easy to ignore, of who to be and how to live, of what, if anything, I wanted". Darling decides to move away from her Manhattan condo full-time into a cottage she had bought some years ago in a very remote part of Vermont, indeed "off the grid", even if Darling herself is by no means experienced for that kind of life. "One of my projects in coming to Vermont had been to learn how to grow old, not just gracefully, but also with style and panache".

The book finds a clever balance between on the one hand finding (or at least attempting to find) a new direction in her life, away from Zoe and away from the city life, while on the other hand trying to become familiar with the remote part of Vermont so as not to get lost (as in: literally getting lost) so often. In that sense, this book is truly about "finding your way". I found myself enjoying this memoir the most when Darling examines her life and how she tries finding a renewed purpose, in particularly when she is diagnosed with a lump in her breast, as opposed to Darling mastering the skills of survival in life "off the grid" and topographic map reading (which takes up quite a few pages). But in the end it is a minor quibble.
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