Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
In The Wilderness Hardcover – April 1, 1996
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
From Publishers Weekly
Barnes here recalls growing up in the '70s as a child in a born-again religious family and her struggles between her faith and her need for acceptance by her more worldly classmates. Her father was a logger in the Idaho lumber camps, and her earliest memories were of family joy in the forests. But a different kind of wilderness soon enveloped them when her father lost his job and they moved to town, where he worked as a trucker, joined the Pentecostal church and was transformed into a withdrawn, authoritarian figure whose faith required the subservience of his wife and two children. Barnes was an exemplary child until she was 12, when, jealous of the liberties her classmates enjoyed, she entered a secret life of rebellion: questioning her faith's tenets of salvation and damnation, of male authority and female submissiveness; tempted by vanity; confused by her burgeoning sexuality. Her parents discovered her plan to run away and sent her to live with friends whose kindness helped her recapture her faith and return to her family?though not without unresolved conflicts. Nonjudgmental and generous, Barnes's portrait of her parents, the fundamentalist milieu and her own spiritual questing is deeply moving. (May) in progress by an emerging female writer.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Barnes is not old, but her life has spanned several epochs. She remembers the pristine wilderness of the Idaho timberlands before the building of dams and the advent of clear-cutting, when her father, a logger, hunted and fished to feed his young, hardy family. Life for Barnes as a child was straightforward, rugged, and noble. And then her parents found God, the unforgiving, ever-demanding God of the Pentecostals, and all spontaneity and beauty were banished. Barnes' coming of age was not a proud passage, but a catalyst for fear and paranoia. It was 1970 and the culture at large was exploring every imaginable form of liberation, but Barnes was swathed in dowdy clothes and forbidden every normal comfort and outlet. Her rebellion was inevitable, as was the harsh punishment she endured and her correspondingly deep sense of guilt and unworthiness. But Barnes survived and gained wisdom from those trials of the spirit. Her unique memoir articulates, with healing intensity, the commingling of joy and oppression inherent in her faith, the fury and love she felt for her parents, and the peace she finally found in marriage and in nature. Donna Seaman
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
“What my father and his family left to come to Idaho was economic hardship and the painful memory of a man who had once been a caring husband and father. My mother left even less—a family connected only by blood,” Barnes writes. “That first camp my parents shared was made up of orphans—my father and his brothers; my mother, running from parents already dead to her; my grandmother, at once widowed and made fatherless; her sister; and my uncle Clyde . . .”
At first, the woods are good to them. They settle into a cramped little logging camp where they’re surrounded by family. They don’t have much money, but they supplement what they make with products of the forest—huckleberries, trout and char, deer and elk.
But logging is a dangerous business. After a couple of gruesome foreshadowing paragraphs describing some of the injuries loggers sustain, Barnes tells us that her father lay housebound for six months with a back injury. Since worker’s compensation didn’t pay enough to live on, they moved in with grandparents and her mother got a job. Barnes had so much time with her father during those months, that “I forgot to miss that other father, the logger who came home in twilight, bringing my mother wild iris, bending easily to kiss me.”
As the uncles married women with children, Barnes’ mother suddenly had female companionship and Barnes herself had a wealth of cousins for play. “Aunts and uncles gathered close in our kitchen for long weekend games of pinochle and Monopoly, smoke from their cigarettes filling the air to a barroom haze,” she writes.
But soon, as technology begins replacing loggers, the family scatters. “My father dug in, determined to stay. He had seen how the dispossessed could turn to liquor and how liquor could in turn possess the soul,” she writes. Her mother was the first to turn to fundamentalism, perhaps because the Pentecostal family provided comfort in the absence of family. “And so,” writes Barnes, “my life is divided by this line: before the church, and after.”
After encompasses the time “my mother pulled the golden hoops from her ears, collected her carefully chosen tubes of lipstick, gathered her swimsuit and open-necked blouses and pushed them all into the drawers’ dark corners. It was as though my mother had disappeared.”
Meanwhile, her father’s “authoritative presence became absolute” and their remaining time in the forest was short. “Even as my brother and I filled our days with childhood adventures, something was at work in my father . . . . my father saw a demon.”
From that time forward, things change even more drastically in the Barnes household. A series of moves lands them in the larger city of Lewiston where Barnes’s long dresses and dowdy appearance make her the object of ridicule. Her pleas for relief and her rebellion leave her gasping for sanity in a world that seems to have gone mad.
For conversion seen through the eyes of a child, to that child, coming of age in a strict fundamentalist household, look for Kim Barnes’ little book (about 250 pages) In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country.
But the family had to move into town where her father could get work, and she hated that. Her family joined a fundamentalist church, and she describes how hard it was to fit in with other kids. It's embarrassing to dress differently, have different rules of
conduct, etc. from the other kids. Embarrassing, but not abusive. As soon as she could, the author left home and church and started life on her own. That's what adults do. I really enjoyed reading about her relationship with nature. It seems to me that nature is her true home.
Fundamentalism in any religious faith or even secular reasoning is a strict adherance to a fundamental principle with little or no chance of compromise. That can turn out to be detrimental as well as positive to another person.
In the case of this particular story I feel that fundamental Pentecostalism not only caused rebellion but inserted a dread of eternal punishment without much hope for forgiveness and restoration.
One extreme example of this is the belief that the husband/father of a family has absolute control and authority of that unit. Therefore his direction must become the direction of the entire family, without exception.
The book went full circle from Kim as a young girl to her as an adult wife and mother. The disturbing thought in my own mind is
that she has not, as yet confronted the strictness of her father or her own personal demons.
In my opinion, the steel like hand of her father has overpowered the gentle hand of her God.