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The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff

Literary fiction

The Vaster Wilds

by Lauren Groff

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Quick take

A young servant girl’s escape from a colonial settlement sparks this exploration of imagination, belief, and history.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Heavy_Read

    Heavy read

  • Illustrated icon, Graphic_Content

    Graphic violence

  • Illustrated icon, No_Quotes

    No quotation marks

  • Illustrated icon, Nature

    Nature

Synopsis

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.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Vaster Wilds.

The Vaster Wilds

I.

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.

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Why I love it

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 (1,281)

  • Sheri H.

    Tampa, FL

    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.

  • Hannah K.

    Parkersburg, WV

    A beautiful reverence to the power of nature and how we are connected to the wilderness. It’s a reflection of womanhood and is filled with such intimate details that you feel you too are in the wild.

  • Renee W.

    Pittsburgh, PA

    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.

  • Victoria C.

    Cohoes, NY

    Love Lauren Geoff’s books, and the differences between them are so impressive. I didn’t know what to think when I picked this up and got sucked into this story of a woman alone in the wilderness.

  • Pauline S.

    Austin, TX

    Ecstatic, poetic, vast. A delicate yet monumental contribution to American literature. A feminist reckoning w/ colonial destruction & vision of transformation rendered in extraordinary, gripping prose

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View all
Real Americans
Wellness
Margo’s Got Money Troubles
Same As It Ever Was
Annie Bot
Mercury
True Biz
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The Lady Waiting
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The Bullet Swallower
Alice Sadie Celine
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Banyan Moon
Shark Heart
Transcendent Kingdom
Hello Beautiful
Dominicana
What's Mine and Yours
The Unsettled
Ask Again, Yes
Vladimir
Infinite Country
The Prophets
Normal People
The Verifiers
Salvage the Bones
The Many Daughters of Afong Moy
I Have Some Questions for You
Black Buck
The History of Love
Age of Vice
Paper Names
The Light Pirate
The Secret History
The Kite Runner
Memorial
The Half Moon
Happiness Falls
The Gifted School
The Death of Vivek Oji
The Knockout Queen
Little Monsters
Yerba Buena
Beautiful World, Where Are You
Free Food for Millionaires
A Burning
The Mothers
The Water Dancer
Small Country
The Sympathizer
Fleishman Is in Trouble
Lot
An American Marriage
The Animators
The Leavers
The Mars Room
Exit West
The Windfall
White Fur
Woman No. 17
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
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& Sons
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