A young servant girl’s escape from a colonial settlement sparks this exploration of imagination, belief, and history.
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A servant girl escapes from a colonial settlement in the wilderness. She carries nothing with her but her wits, a few possessions, and the spark of god that burns hot within her. What she finds in this terra incognita is beyond the limits of her imagination and will bend her belief in everything that her own civilization has taught her.
Lauren Groff’s new novel is at once a thrilling adventure story and a penetrating fable about trying to find a new way of living in a world succumbing to the churn of colonialism. The Vaster Wilds is a work of raw and prophetic power that tells the story of America in miniature, through one girl at a hinge point in history, to ask how—and if—we can adapt quickly enough to save ourselves.
The Vaster Wilds
The moon hid itself behind the clouds. The wind spat an icy snow at angles.
In the tall black wall of the palisade, through a slit too seeming thin for human passage, the girl climbed into the great and terrible wilderness.
Over her face she wore a hood drawn low, and she was slight, both bony and childish small, but the famine had stripped her down yet starker, to root and string and fiber and sinew. Even so starved, and blinded by the dark, she was quick. She scrabbled upright, stumbled with her first step, nearly fell, but caught herself and began to run, going fast over the frozen ruts of the field and all the stalks of dead corn that had come up in the summer already sooty and fruitless and stunted with blight.
Swifter, girl, she told herself, and in their fear and anguish, her legs moved yet faster.
These good boots the girl had stolen off the son of a gentleman, a stripling half her age but of equal size, who had died of the smallpox the night before, the rash a rust spreading over the starved bones. These leather gloves and the thick cloak the girl had stolen off her own mistress. She banished the thought of the woman still weeping upon her knees on the frozen ground in the courtyard inside that hellish place. With each step she drew away, everything there loosened its grip on the girl.
Why I love it
Author, Infinite Country
I will read anything Lauren Groff writes. Each of her books carry her singular linguistic brilliance while venturing into uncharted terrain, promising new and devoted readers a literary journey like no other. In her new novel, The Vaster Wilds, Groff pulls readers into the fevered dark heart of colonialism, rife with years of sickness and famine as well as European settlers trespassing upon indigenous peoples and one another.
The Vaster Wilds follows an unnamed escaped servant girl on her quest to freedom through the North American wilderness. In Groff’s gifted hands, we experience both the tenderness and violence of nature, and the fortitude of a girl who has little to sustain herself with beyond her faith, courage, and physical stamina—all of which are tested in frightening and exhilarating ways. This is a novel that will hold you by the throat, forcing you to confront what you hold to be true about spiritual survival while guiding you into communion with the mysteries of the natural world.
Lauren Groff is a poet and a master stylist. Her sentences astonish. The Vaster Wilds is a breathtaking adventure story with the beauty and horror of a gothic fairytale, a book for the most passionate lovers of language and the dreamiest of readers who yearn to get lost in the world of another, almost forgotten time.
Member ratings (727)
A very introspective read while being grim and harsh at the same time. This book painted a very real picture of what it was like for the first Europeans to come to America. ❤️ the narrators monologue.
A survival story which is enhanced by gorgeous writing full of vivid imagery. The writing is so taut you are immediately concerned for the girl’s well-being and this feeling is pervasive to the end.
Beautiful and harrowing. I feel like this is one I could return to at a different stage of my life and have a whole new set of experiences. Not just survival story, not just philosophy; it is bigger.
Woodland Park , CO
Wonderful book, felt like an instant classic. Her language and sensory descriptions are amazing. Truly a slow burn thriller with a literary heart. I was always invested in the serving girl’s fate.
Cincinnati , OH
This is an immersive masterpiece IMO. After I finished I just stared off into space in a philosophical trance. My guess is this book will bore some, but blow others away; I’m the latter