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Wilderness: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Lance Weller
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (274 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Thirty years after the Civil War's Battle of the Wilderness left him maimed, Abel Truman has found his way to the edge of the continent, the rugged, majestic coast of Washington State, where he lives alone in a driftwood shack with his beloved dog. Wilderness is the story of Abel, now an old and ailing man, and his heroic final journey over the snowbound Olympic Mountains. It's a quest he has little hope of completing but still must undertake to settle matters of the heart that predate even the horrors of the war.

As Abel makes his way into the foothills, the violence he endures at the hands of two thugs after his dog is cross cut with his memories of the horrors of the war, the friends he lost, and the savagery he took part in and witnessed. And yet, darkness is cut by light, especially in the people who have touched his life-from Jane Dao-Ming Poole, the daughter of murdered Chinese immigrants, to Hypatia, an escaped slave who nursed him back to life, and finally the unbearable memory of the wife and child he lost as a young man. Haunted by tragedy, loss, and unspeakable brutality, Abel has somehow managed to hold on to his humanity, finding weigh stations of kindness along his tortured and ultimately redemptive path.

In its contrasts of light and dark, wild and tame, brutal and tender, and its attempts to reconcile a horrific war with the great evil it ended, Wilderness not only tells the moving tale of an unforgettable character, but a story about who we are as human beings, a people, and a nation. Lance Weller's immensely impressive debut immediately places him among our most talented writers.

Editorial Reviews


What's most gorgeous here is the language, Weller's descriptions of the natural world, the changing emotional terrain within his characters, and violence. The author seems to be reminding us that the Wilderness remains both without and within. A remarkable debut, deeply affecting and heartfelt Gil Adamson, author of The Outlander Epic ...There is much to savour in this big, bold debut, including Weller's splendid descriptions of wildlife encountered in the trek ...This is a novel in which history's sound and fury is drowned out at last by the silence of the wilderness Financial Times This portrait of a life is built up masterfully by Weller, in his debut novel, into a compassionate tale ... There is lots of great, descriptive landscape writing here, and all the flashbacks to the war are rendered in just as much evocative detail. It's a beautiful novel, resplendent in ornate, flowing prose Herald An American Civil War epic for fans of Cold Mountain ... Traumatising, character-driven and written with serious literary intent We Love This Book


"Here is a book in the great tradition of the novel: a vivid world that wraps and holds the reader who can well lose himself in its grandeur. The character is the beloved Abel Truman. The landscapes are huge. Abel’s story is both simple and rich, the novel unforgettable." —Annie Dillard

"Wilderness is a masterful novel of incident and redemption, hugely entertaining, full of pathos and humanity—frankly, it's hard to believe that it's a debut.  Fans of Charles Frazier and Cormac McCarthy alike will thrill at Weller’s luminous prose and clear-eyed moral vision." —Jonathan Evison, bestselling author of West of Here and All About Lulu

"Lance Weller’s magnificent Wilderness is a brilliant, singular achievement. Now and again comes a novel that is so wholly its own that any comparison shrivels away. Lance Weller has given us this not only in the tale, which is deeply compelling and superbly page-turning, but, most importantly, in his book’s thoughtful and illuminating exploration of who we are and how we got here. These people are heartrendingly beautiful, fragile and resilient but also ugly, hateful and hurtful. And Weller masterfully raises the stakes as he draws these webs of humanity with prose constructed with compelling art and ease." —Jeffrey Lent, author of In the Fall

"Lance Weller’s Wilderness is a remarkable novel. It reads like a dream of history, and reads at a fever pitch. Its description of the carnage in the Battle of the Wilderness is so vivid and unrelenting that readers will never forget it. Yet at the novel’s heart is a gentle and diffident man who touches us with his humanity and courage. This is a stunning first novel." —John Vernon, author of Lucky Billy

"Rendered in powerful, richly detailed language that is at once grim and deeply moving, Wilderness interweaves the heartbreaking narratives of Civil War survivors—veterans, civilians, former slaves—whose lives are wrecked by unthinkable violence yet sustained by the tragic beauty still to be found in the world. Lance Weller writes with a quiet urgency that brings an immediacy to the past in the damaged bodies and haunted souls of his characters. A magnificent achievement!" — John Pipkin, author of Woodsburner

"This beautifully crafted tale of the transformational period between the nation’s most horrific cataclysm and the end of the century is peopled with characters fully formed and vivid, noble and depraved, who will linger in the reader’s mind long after the last page has been turned." —Lynn Schooler, author of Walking Home and The Blue Bear

"Wilderness reawakens in us what we knew while discovering for the first time the work of the great writers—what it means to fall into the lives of characters riveting in their complexity, and to be so utterly transported into a tale and compelled through its pages.  Set in the war-torn South and the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, this is the story of a country torn in two and of the hard healing afterward, of Abel Truman, a simple soldier, who journeys through the savagery of war and lawless men to a place of redemption.  An exquisite telling, Lance Weller’s language evokes the moments that otherwise render us mute. This book is a knockout." --Claire Davis, author of Winter Range and Season of the Snake

Any war, whether it is the American Civil War or the Vietnam War, inflicts wounds and many scars. Physical and mental scars. Truman carries both and finds they will not let him go. As in Karl Marlantes’ Matterhorn the reader is living in the battle with the men screaming when the metal bullet peels by their ear, watching their buddies get blown up right in from of them, the smell of burning flesh, both human and horse, penetrating their nostrils until they can almost no longer breathe. Much credit is due to Lance Weller, this incredibly talented writer who can bring to life such a battle as The Wilderness. Weller has crafted a novel of stories within stories, all interwoven in prose so exquisite and descriptive that you will want to read Wilderness more than one time, and all in one sitting to capture this novel in its salvific beauty. Put aside your day, open up Wilderness and take a dive into this fabulous work of fiction."—Annie Philbrook, Bank Square Books


Product Details

  • File Size: 1911 KB
  • Print Length: 300 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1608199371
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007Y5IZ06
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,183 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
71 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Debut, Excellent Story August 8, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"Wilderness" is a book that comes around once in a decade, if we're lucky. Lance Weller put off writing this literary masterpiece, went through a prolonged illness and then - with a unique and careful aging process - finished it. The rest of us are lucky he got the thing published because it's a wonderfully moving and epic first novel.

Hopefully, this book is not his last.

Weller's main character, Abel Truman, is key in the lives of several others and the reader is slowly drawn to him regardless of misgivings. Truman's life is harder than most, because of the Civil War, because of a tragic early marriage, because of his own bad decisions and mostly due to faulty luck. Regardless of what life throws at him, however, he perseveres and becomes heroic more than once. His ill-fated journey from the east to the west coast and Olympic mountains is seen through various time jumps, the backdrops being war-torn Appalachia contrasting with more pristine settings in coastal Washington state. A mix of innocents and evil men haunt his steps throughout. Truman's aging companion dog becomes the apex of his later years and serves as harbinger, guide and literary metaphor.

The writing is handsome, sharp, romantic... pure prose. Many paragraphs left me saying "Wow" out loud. Weller comes the closest to Cormac McCarthy than any other modern writer I've had the pleasure of reading, which is no small feat. Where McCarthy is unflinching with his nightmarish beauty, Weller softens the tone just enough. His craft renders scenery like a Hudson River-style masterpiece, which helps make the ever-present evil a bit less raw. Make no mistake, however, his evil men are every bit as horrifying as any McCarthy bad guy. There are equal doses of terror, heart-rending sadness, humor and pure good.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Improved as He Traveled September 6, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you like sentences that, due to a multitude of adjectives and adverbs, go on for five or six lines, this is the book for you. Some of the book, particularly at the beginning, seemed like a college writing exercise: "How many metaphors can you fit on a page?" It was so dense, I almost put the book down. At the outset, the writing overshadowed the story. As the main character began his trek and the Battle of the Wilderness started, the story-telling improved mightily.

The book is told in two parts, and switches back and forth. In 1899, Abel Truman seems to realize he is dying and wants to make a long trek through the mountain pass. He leaves his isolated shack on the ocean in the Pacific northwest in what seems to be a last march to his death. Interspersed are accounts of the Battle of the Wilderness where he was injured and saved. Due to way the book switches back and forth, it takes a while to fit the pieces of his personal history together from his references being made in 1899. Once the pieces are together, both stories flow much better and the reader becomes rapt.

After the tenuous start, this book is a terrific character study. I am sure it would be excellent fodder for book clubs as so much can be read into it. I recommend it with the caution that it will take most readers a while to get into it and I wish Mr. Weller had been a tad more succinct in his writing.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I usually do not read the reviews from various other authors or critics that mar book covers or jackets (and test the patience and humor of graphic designers, no doubt) like graffiti on a library. But after I finished reading "Wilderness," I simply could not put the book away, so I looked over the out-of-context comments and, I sort of agreed with the high praise.

Lance Weller writes with the precision and seasoning that attest to work in the trenches---revisions, rejections, and more revisions---all part of the effort of crafting a fine novel. It is hard to pause and dig into the depth of this writing as the story pulls one along like a strong river. So I find myself going back, rereading short passages, admiring the fit and flow of the words or the cleverness of a simile: "The cool, stinging wind of a single bullet passed close to his cheek like the first quick kiss of a girl."

I still keep the book close so I can scoop out a few words or sentences and linger over them. (I tend to do this with Walker Percy novels, too.)

The story of Abel Truman is that of an every man who is dealt a series of body blows that should have stopped him in his tracks, both from the physical pain and the emotional anguish he experiences. Instead, he finds a way to clutch and hold the threads of humanity and kindness that run counter to the harshness, hate, cruelty, ignorance, and violence. The narrative spans two timelines, one during the events both preceding and following the Civil War Battle of the Wilderness, the second 35 years later at the cusp of a new century, playing out on the coastal Pacific Northwest.

How Abel actually found his way there is not the story, but why he went and why he intended to leave are integral. Mr.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Good Writing; Poor Story Structure" August 11, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There are two stories here of Abel Truman. One is when Abel is a soldier in the Civil War in 1864 and the other is when Abel is a crippled ex-soldier living in a shack along the Pacific Ocean in 1899. There is a way to write flashbacks into a story and a way not to and in my opinion the author used the way not to. The paragraphs are a little long and I had a difficult time keeping the characters and two story lines straight in my mind, since in both Abel is hurt and is rescued numerous times. This novel could have been better presented as one story with one timeline.

This being said, the author, Lance Weller, is a wonderful descriptive writer. He has a way of beautifully describing the sights and sounds of a story involving violence and tragedy. In Abel's war experiences and struggles in the years after, the author also brings to the reader the hardships of the peoples of our nation after a war some say will never end.
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More About the Author

Lance Weller has published short fiction in several literary journals. He won Glimmer Train's Short Story Award for New Writers and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A Washington native, he has hiked and camped extensively in the landscape he describes. He lives in Gig Harbor, WA, with his wife and several dogs.

Please stop by Lance's blog at or at

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