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Wilderness: A Novel

Wilderness: A Novel

3.9 18
by Lance Weller

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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


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 who are after his dog is crosscut 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 to 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 way 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 tells not only 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

Publishers Weekly
War and remembrance combine powerfully in this rugged debut novel of the horrors of combat and the fierceness of nature. Thirty-five years after the Civil War, Abel Truman, a reclusive, isolated survivor of the cauldron of fire that raged in the 1864 Battle of the Wilderness, where he fought as a Confederate soldier and lost the use of his left arm, begins a journey home. In a tone that owes much, sometimes too much, to Hemingway, he braves the violence of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula landscape and people as he ruminates on his losses and returns from the outer limits of civilization. Weller’s depiction of the old soldier’s journey through memory is the strongest part of the book, with long, vivid passages that evoke the sensory assault of combat and its aftermath. The small details of the battlefield, from the field hospital where his friends died to his glimpse of “a dented tuba lying lost in the middle of a swampy little creek and loose horses too numerous for counting” are potent Civil War prose, a respectful echo of Stephen Crane and Ambrose Bierce. Less successful are the scenes near the end of his trek, where race and violence and kindness jumble together in a murky variety of redemption and sacrifice. Agent: JET Literary Associates. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Debut author Weller (winner of Glimmer Train's Short Story Award for New Writers) alternates between two stretches in the life of Abel Truman: his weeks as a Confederate soldier in the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864, when his arm was lost and his friends killed, and the harrowing stretch in 1899 when aging Abel abandons his hermit lifestyle on the coast of Washington State to take one last try at redemption, but encounters interference from some depraved dog fighters. Weller vividly paints epic events against the backdrop of beautiful but brutal landscapes. It's a story brimming with compassion for those—including Abel, his wife and child, his soldier companions, his dog, newly freed slaves, Chinese immigrants, and a mixed-race couple—caught in fateful, savage events. VERDICT Spanning the continent, this tragic tale is the best Civil War novel since Cold Mountain. It's an important, compelling book for fans of literate historical fiction, dog lovers, or true believers in the resilience of the human spirit. Only those who can't handle extreme violence should stay away. [See Prepub Alert, 3/18/12.]—Neil Hollands, Williamsburg Regional Lib., VA
Kirkus Reviews
A wounded Civil War veteran reckons with thieves, racism and the torments of his past. Weller's debut novel alternates between 1864 and 1899 to follow the life of Abel Truman, who fought for the Confederacy before moving to the Pacific Northwest. Much of the action in the Civil War chapters focuses on the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia, a particularly bloody affair, and Weller relates the action in disarmingly visceral detail, blasted faces, spilled bowels and all. That violence is paralleled by Abel's own unhappy past, in which his infant daughter and wife died in quick succession. In the 1899 chapters, Abel is living an isolated life with his dog before he falls afoul of a pair of thieves working their way down the Pacific Coast. The alternating chapters essentially make for two redemption stories--the first a chronicle of Abel's awareness of the folly of racism and the futility of war, the second a tale of human capacity for not just survival, but heroism. Weller relates all this in flagrantly Faulkner-ian language, thick with nature imagery and long sentences that strive to swallow the world whole: "The sun was bright in the leafed trees, upon grass slick with caught rain, and the man-filled road was as protean and indomitable as a river flowing seaward." Weller's command of this style is sometimes shaky, at times obscuring plot points or overdramatizing particular moments. And the linguistic finery serves a fairly simplistic fable on kindness and brotherhood. (Abel Truman's very name hints at how morally uncomplicated the protagonist is.) But Weller's finer moments are marked by some spectacular sentences: He finds an unlikely beauty in the violence-torn settings, as when a bullet passes a soldier's neck "like the first quick kiss of a shy girl." A familiar war story, but told with verve and sturdy, biblical intonations.

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
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Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.82(d)


Meet 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.

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Wilderness 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wilderness is an exciting story about Abel Truman, a brave Civil War veteran, and his dog. Abel lives in Washington and wishes to make a final journey across the Olympic Mountains. The book is very difficult to get into because the detail is so great; it is difficult to get past each scene. Lance Weller will write a page in great detail about a tree he found in the woods. It is almost annoying at some points because you just want to get to the story. Overall, the story line is great because of the inspiration. Abel is an extremely inspiring man throughout the entire story. The sentences are extremely long and challenging. Along with a plot that slowly develops, it can be tough to read. When reading this book you need to keep reading and push through the beginning part. Also, the book goes back and forth between background of Abel and the actual story, so it does get confusing.  
Dawn Neumann More than 1 year ago
this book was beautifully written.  I am from the Pacific Northwest and could see the moss on the nurse log and fee the moist air.  The sceens from the civil war gave me another, I feel, more realistic view of what it must have been like during that time of poor fire arms and even poorer health care.  
TrailWanderer More than 1 year ago
I have always appreciated authors who can vividly describe a wilderness setting in a way that makes me appreciate the beauty of the area even more than fine photo.  This book is about pain, regret and redemption.  Really quite inspiring.  Well worth your time.  If you like Charles Frazier or if you enjoy the way Cormac McCarthy describes a landscape, you will really like this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It’s difficult, but for the person that pushes through it, amazing! “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.” This book is difficult to read because of the strong vocab and description. The book can go on and be very boring, but as long as you follow the story so many incredible lessons and stories come out of Abel. The read is very slow but, if you are good at understanding difficult texts this book is amazing. I can’t stress enough that this book is amazing yet it is very difficult. This book has a lot of power struggles and through the Marxist lens you can understand these power changes. The dog always obeys Abel, Abel often fought with other men during the war over power. Abel fought to establish right from wrong and changed power many times throughout the book.  If I had to recommend this book for someone I would definitely recommend it to advanced male readers that are interested in slavery, history, and war. The book is difficult to read and its Lexile level we estimated to be 950-1100 because of the vocab and sentence structure. The book has a lot of war and slavery in the plot so if that interests you, read it and don’t give up on it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book . Well defined good verses evil. I loved Abel and his difficult life broke my heart. He never gives up hope and his love for his dog is sweet.
Rmykins More than 1 year ago
Amazingly detailed, loved this book. This is the next great American novel. An instant classic. Well worth the time to read with intensity.
new-hampshire-reader More than 1 year ago
Even though I have just started this book, I am finding it very difficult to read. The author seems to take great pains to make his writing lyrical, using unfamiliar words - his writing almost seems forced to me. So far I have had a difficult time even following who is who. So at 75 pages out of 250+ pages, I am not sure if I can continue to read it. I read to relax and enjoy a book, and this book does not do either for me.
Fonti More than 1 year ago
Amazing book
StitcherAA More than 1 year ago
I had a hard time getting into it because of the switching from past to present. It was, however, worth the struggle. Very good, if you like history. Descriptions were amazing. Plot took a bit to materialize but it was just plain GOOD.
JalFL More than 1 year ago
I liked it! Very well written. Actually bought it for my hubby, but ended up reading it myself. It was just intriguing , keep me interested and wanting to read more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! Beautifully written and poignant. It describes the horror of the civil war, man's inhumanity to man and the compassion and love of which man is also capable. Hard to put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Might pick it up again sometime later, but not now
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You were a pretty wild kit. All you did was suckle and sleep. But when you were four moons... you ran out the nursery wanting to play and saw some kits plaaying mossball. But then a leaf flutters past you. <p> &starf If you choose to follow the leaf, go to next res. <p> &starf If you choose to play with the kits, go to play with me res one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Volunteer at your VA hospital protest the wars all and any if you ckaim to be christuan remember The not kill clause only one not reversible might look up a Friends Meeting or Mennonite Meeting donate the moneyto lical foid oabtry instead