Synopses & Reviews
springs from a little-known event in the life of one of Americas most iconic figures, Henry David Thoreau. On April 30, 1844, a year before he built his cabin on Walden Pond, Thoreau accidentally started a forest fire that destroyed three hundred acres of the Concord woods—an event that altered the landscape of American thought in a single day.
Against the background of Thoreaus fire, Pipkins ambitious debut penetrates the mind of the young philosopher while also painting a panorama of the young nation at a formative moment. Pipkins Thoreau is a lost soul, plagued by indecision, resigned to a career designing pencils for his fathers factory while dreaming of better things. On the day of the fire, his path will intersect with three very different local citizens, each of whom also harbors a secret dream. Oddmund Hus, a lovable Norwegian farmhand, pines for the wife of his brutal employer. Elliott Calvert, a prosperous bookseller, is also a hilariously inept aspiring playwright. And Caleb Dowdy preaches fire and brimstone to his congregation through an opium haze. Each of their lives, like Thoreaus, is changed forever by the fire.
Like Geraldine Brookss March and Colm Tóibíns The Master, Woodsburner illuminates Americas literary and cultural past with insight, wit, and deep affection for its unforgettable characters, as it brings to vivid life the complex man whose writings have inspired generations
"What a terrific tale John Pipkin spins! He has taken a dramatic episode in the life of Thoreau and the history of Concord, Massachusetts, where I have lived for over thirty years, and transformed it into a gripping and profound work of fiction. More than a century and a half ago, my fellow Concordian, Ralph Waldo Emerson said of Walt Whitman. 'I greet you at the beginning of a great career.' The same can now be said to the wonderfully talented Mr. Pipkin." Doris Kearns Goodwin
In 1844, the year before he built his cabin on Walden Pond, young Henry David Thoreau was a lost soul, resigned to a career working for his father's factory. But a fateful event set him on a very different course. One dry spring day, he struck a match to start a campfire, and in minutes the trees overhead were ablaze. By day's end, 300 acres of the woods were destroyed. Haunted by whispers of Woodsburner, Thoreau retreated to Walden and began the writings that altered the landscape of American thought.
Against this factual background, John Pipkin's ingenious debut evokes the imagination of the young Thoreau and the American moment that shaped him, as he crosses paths with a cast of citizens who harbor passionate dreams. Oddmund Hus, a lovable Norwegian farmhand, pines for the wife of his brutal employer. Elliott Calvert, a prosperous bookseller, is also a hilariously inept aspiring playwright. And Caleb Dowdy preaches fire and brimstone to his congregation through an opium haze. Each of their lives, like Thoreau's, is changed forever by the fire.
Like Geraldine Brooks's March and Colm Toibin's The Master, Woodsburner brings America's literary and cultural past to life with insight, wit, and deep affection for its unforgettable characters.
About the Author
JOHN PIPKIN was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, and he holds degrees from Washington and Lee University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Rice University. He has taught writing and literature at Saint Louis University, Boston University, and Southwestern University. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and son.