Woodsburner - John Pipkin

John Pipkin’s well constructed and beautifully articulated Woodsburner (Nan A. Talese, $24.95) builds on the historical incident of a distracted Henry Thoreau who accidentally set fire to the woods near Concord, Massachusetts. Pipkin interweaves the lives of several fictional characters representing a changing America in the early 1850s. Oddmund Hus, who works on a nearby farm, has suffered great losses in his young life since immigrating from Norway. He pines for a sweet young Irish-American, Emma Woburn, who, alas, is married to a much older farmer for whom Oddmund works. Eliot Carter, a young bookseller and would-be playwright, happens to be visiting Concord that day from Boston to look for a new store and is enlisted to fight the fire, and a creepy religious zealot, Caleb Dowdy, sees the fire as vindicating his ministry.

In John Pipkin’s remarkable debut novel, Woodsburner (Nan A. Talese, $24.95), the words leap gorgeously from the pages. A fire is accidentally started in the Concord woods on a very dry spring day. The man who started the fire is a deeply depressed Henry Thoreau, who had wanted to cook his fresh-caught fish. Pipkin has created the rest of the memorable characters who were brought together by the fire: a bookseller, Eliot Calvert, who wants to become a playwright;  Caleb Dowdy, a crazed fundamentalist preacher; Oddmund Hus, a Norwegian immigrant, stunted emotionally by another fire in which his parents and the others on the boat perished just before they docked in America; the Czech women Zaleka and Anezkia who had served long prison sentences for engaging in lewd practices; and Emma Manning, whose late father sent her to America to escape the famine. It’s as though the fire burns through to the essence of each person.

Woodsburner Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385528658
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Nan A. Talese - April 28th, 2009

Woodsburner Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307455321
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Anchor - May 4th, 2010

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