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The Wilding: A Novel Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 28, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Percy's excellent debut novel (after the collection Refresh, Refresh) digs into the ambiguous American attitude toward nature as it oscillates between Thoreau's romantic appreciation and sheer gothic horror. The plot concerns a hunting trip taken by Justin Caves and his sixth-grade son, Graham, with Justin's bullying father, Paul, a passionate outdoorsman in failing health who's determined to spend one last weekend in the Echo Canyon before real estate developer Bobby Fremont turns the sublime pocket of wilderness into a golfing resort. Justin, a high school English teacher, has hit an almost terminally rough patch in his marriage to Karen, who, while the boys camp, contemplates an affair with Bobby, though she may have bigger problems with wounded Iraq war vet Brian, a case study in creepy stalker. The men, meanwhile, are being tracked by a beast and must contend with a vengeful roughneck roaming the woods. A taut plot and cast of deeply flawed characters--Justin is a masterwork of pitiable wretchedness--will keep readers rapt as peril descends and split-second decisions come to have lifelong repercussions. It's as close as you can get to a contemporary Deliverance.
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From Booklist

Wilderness, in several senses, is at the root of this ambitious first novel. A man named Justin; his impulsive, willful father; and his studious, school-age son spend a weekend camping and hunting in an Oregon wilderness area that will soon become a golf resort. Portents of danger accompany them: a rattler in their tent, an enraged redneck, and signs of a marauding bear. But it’s granddad who seems the greatest threat, and Justin, who has always shied away from confrontation, worries that even if they survive, the fabric of family may not. Percy skillfully limns the psychic wildernesses of his characters even as he paints a vivid image of central Oregon’s high desert, the impact of development, and the divide between capitalism and conservation. A parallel story of Justin’s angst-ridden wife, who is being stalked by an ex-marine who suffered a horrific head wound in Iraq, is also effective; but it creates one more psychic wilderness than the book can handle. The Wilding seems a bit overambitious, but, even so, it draws readers in and holds them in its grasp. --Thomas Gaughan
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (September 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555975690
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555975692
  • ASIN: B0057DCHV0
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,156,995 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Benjamin Percy is an award-winning novelist, comics writer and screenwriter.

His new novel, The Dead Lands (Grand Central/Hachette, 2015), is a post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga. He is also the author of the novels Red Moon (Grand Central/Hachette, 2013) and The Wilding (Graywolf Press, 2010), as well as two books of stories, Refresh, Refresh (Graywolf Press, 2007) and The Language of Elk (Grand Central/Hachette 2013; Carnegie Mellon, 2006).

He writes the Green Arrow series for DC Comics. His fiction and nonfiction have been read on National Public Radio, performed at Symphony Space, and published by Esquire (where he is a contributing editor), GQ, Time, Men's Journal, Outside, the Wall Street Journal, the Paris Review, Tin House, Glimmer Train, Ploughshares, and many other magazines and journals.

His honors include an NEA fellowship, the Whiting Writers' Award, the Plimpton Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, and inclusion in Best American Short Stories and Best American Comics.

His original crime series, Black Gold, about the oil fields of North Dakota, is currently in development with Starz and produced by Fremantle Media. The pilot will be shot by filmmaker James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now, Smashed). With Oscar-winner Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) he is adapting his novel Red Moon into a series for FOX TV.

Learn more about him at www.benjaminpercy.com.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Myfanwy Collins on January 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
On the surface, you might consider Benjamin Percy's chillingly brilliant new novel THE WILDING to be a classic tale of man vs. nature. Scratch beneath the surface, and you will find that man's biggest fear is not the beast without, rather it is the beast within.

Commonly, we understand frontier times (and consequently the literature of that time) to be about (white) human beings conquering the land and conquering those (man and beast) who inhabit the land. THE WILDING has a kinship to the frontier--an exploration of the American far West, a land both mountainous and arid, where old-growth forest meets high desert. A wild place that many people have not visited and yet it is now on the fringe of expansion as more and more towns, like Bend, push beyond their boundaries into the wild.

Within The Wilding, there is a family in crisis--generations of fathers and sons and a fractured and fragile shell of a marriage--and there is a man in crisis--the creepily and yet not unfeeling drawn war vet, Brian. There is also a landscape in crisis--a once wild place about to be developed. Any one of these three would make the great basis for a novel but all three of them together, set this novel on fire. I typically read before bed but there were times that I was so on edge with reading this book that I had to put it down and pick up another so that I can make sure I would sleep. It got under my skin.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By W. V. Buckley on October 18, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It doesn't happen often, but once in a while I stumble across a novel by a new author (new to me, at least) and take a leap of faith to sample an unknown quality. Sometimes that leaps ends in 'what was I thinking when I bought this book?' exasperation. Other times - far too rarely - it ends with the giddy excitement of discovering an author with a clear, unique voice whose words paint pictures that are etched in my memory like pictographs found on canyon walls. Benjamin Percy's The Wilding definitely belongs in the latter category.

In prose as clear and fast flowing as a mountain stream, Percy tells the story of five people. There's Justin, an English teacher who has reached a point where his life is perfectly ordered. His wife, Karen, is still recovering emotionally from a miscarriage and is resentful of her husband's passivity. Their son, Graham, is a studious boy who prefers books to BB guns. Rounding out the cast of characters is Paul, Justin's father, a blustering builder of homes who has never understood where the line is between loving his son and bullying him, and Brian, a survivor of a IED in Iraq who returned home with head injury, whose chance encounter with Karen sets him on a dangerous path of obsession.

Set in central Oregon, the story is a simple one: Justin, along with his father and son, go on one last hunting trip to a canyon set to be transformed in a golf course. Along the way they encounter a local backwoodsman who resents the intrusion of outsiders and outside ideas into his territory. There's also a grizzly bear that remains unseen through most of the book, though his presence is keenly felt by the hunters.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Rett01 VINE VOICE on October 4, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Rereading James Dickey's "Deliverance" New York Times reviewer Dwight Garner wrote in April 2010 that the lean novel about wilderness and survival has lost "little of its sleekness or power" in the four decades since its publication. "In 2010, it's (a) lonely work looking for its serious successor."

Benjamin Percy takes up the challenge and for the most part succeeds in "The Wilding," a tightly wound, gutsy follow-up to the author's award winning collection "Refresh, Refresh" and "The Language of Elk."

Percy quotes from "Deliverance" in his novel's front pages and goes on, as Dickey did, to place men at peril in the "dark forest" where menace is everywhere and their struggle to survive slowly strips away layer by layer their veneer of sociability and order.

Bad things happen early. The blood on the kitchen floor in the opening pages foreshadows the danger and violence that follow and the sets the pace at which the action unfolds.

The three people sent into the wilds of the Pacific Northwest are Justin Caves, who teaches high school English in Bend, Ore., his sixth-grader son Graham and Justin's father Paul, a rough-hewn builder full of bluster, an outdoorsman and bully with big, leathery hands that "rake through his beard like paws through rotten wood."

At the elder's urging, the three of them and the old man's dog Boo spend "guy time" on a camping weekend in Echo Canyon, a revered family hunting spot in the "big pines and bear grass meadows" of the Ochoco Mountains of Central Oregon.

This will be the last time they hunt the canyon. The once-public land will be bulldozed beginning the following Monday and the wilderness paved over with asphalt roads and river-rock drives leading up to a lavish golf resort.
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