Advance Praise For Wilderness


Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain meets David Guterson’s East of the Mountains in this sweeping historical novel of a Civil War veteran’s last journey on the Pacific Coast.

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.

Advance praise for Wilderness:

“Here is a book in the great tradition of the novel: a vivid world that wraps and holds the reader who can well lose himself in its grandeur. The character is the beloved Abel Truman. The landscapes are huge. Abel’s story is both simple and rich, the novel unforgettable.”—Annie Dillard

“Lance Weller’s magnificent Wilderness is a brilliant, singular achievement. Now and again comes a novel that is so wholly its own that any comparison shrivels away. Lance Weller has given us this, not only in the tale, which is deeply compelling and superbly page-turning but most importantly, a thoughtful and illuminating exploration of who we are and how we got here. These people are heartrendingly beautiful, fragile and resilient but also ugly, hateful and hurtful. And Weller masterfully raises the stakes as he draws these webs of humanity with prose constructed with compelling art and ease.”—Jeffrey Lent, author of In the Fall

“Wilderness is a masterful novel of incident and redemption, hugely enterainting, full of pathos and humanity—frankly, it’s hard to believe that it’s a debut. Fans of Charles Frazier and Cormac McCarthy alike will thrill at Weller’s luminous prose and clear-eyed moral vision.”—Jonathan Evison, bestselling author of West of Here and All About Lulu

“Lance Weller’s Wilderness is a remarkable novel. It reads like a dream of history, and reads at a fever pitch. Its description of the carnage in the Battle of the Wilderness is so vivid and unrelenting that readers will never forget it. Yet at the novel’s heart is a gentle and diffident man who touches us with his humanity and courage. This is a stunning first novel.”—John Vernon, author of Lucky Billy: A Novel

“In Wilderness, Lance Weller uses an archaic, lyrical language to create not simply prose, but a song, a dirge and lamentation, that strips all glory and pride from the thunderous bloodletting of the Civil War as rudely and completely as a surgeon’s bone saw removes a mangled leg. This beautifully crafted tale of the transformational period between the nation’s most horrific cataclysm and the end of the century is peopled with characters fully-formed and vivid, noble and depraved, who will linger in the reader’s mind long after the last page has been turned.”—Lynn Schooler, author of Walking Home and The Blue Bear

“Rendered in powerful, richly detailed language that is at once grim and deeply moving, Wilderness interweaves the heartbreaking narratives of Civil War survivors—veterans, civilians, former slaves—whose lives are wrecked by unthinkable violence yet sustained by the tragic beauty still to be found in the world. Lance Weller writes with a quiet urgency that brings an immediacy to the past in the damaged bodies and haunted souls of his characters. A magnificent achievement!”—John Pipkin, author of Woodsburner

Wilderness reawakens in us what we knew while discovering for the first time the work of the great writers—what it means to fall into the lives of characters riveting in their complexity, and to be so utterly transported into a tale and compelled through its pages. Set in the war-torn South and the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, this is the story of a country torn in two and of the hard healing afterward, of Abel Truman, a simple soldier, who journeys through the savagery of war and lawless men to a place of redemption. An exquisite telling, Lance Weller’s language evokes the moments that otherwise render us mute. This book is a knockout.”—Claire Davis, author of Winter Range and Season of the Snake


22 thoughts on “Advance Praise For Wilderness

  1. Hey Lance,

    I can’t find an email address for you anywhere )-: I arrange author events and have a venue interested in you. Please contact us. Garth Stein, Jamie Ford, Jane Smiley, are just a few of the writers we work with. Thanks

  2. Having read your book, I more deeply appreciated the Civil War exhibit at the National American Art Gallery in Washington D.C. thanks.
    What I will be posting at my blogsite

    If thoughts were birds

    Some may wonder why a blog whose title is a West African saying begins with an image from the wet gray Pacific coast of Washington State. I can elucidate with examples.
    It is now late November, and I’ve been walking all around Washington DC, passing by monuments and through museums for many an hour. As I roam through a lovely fall evening, restless starlings rise briefly from the leaf strewn grass and settle again in a chattering gang. Near our hotel they explode from a tree like leaves before a gust of wind and settle quickly in a neighboring tree. Their behavior mimics my darting mind as I migrate from image to image at the Phillips or the Renwick, or as I browse among African artifacts lonely in their glass cases.
    What is Art? My thoughts roil like birds scavenging back and forth over the flat sand.
    Why does the patina on a 700-year-old terracotta horseman make me shiver? Thoughts settle awhile and I admire wordlessly.
    At times a single word startles my thoughts out of the weeds. Reading Lance Weller’s fine new novel Wilderness and then attending a dazzling DC production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream—I bump into “welkin,” and my thoughts lift into thin air. What’re the odds that that among all the shiny pebbles on the beach this little odd word appears twice in the month of November? I pick it up.
    So, there, you have my perfect explanation.

  3. Absolutely one of the best books I have EVER read! I’m a librarian and have made my way through almost all of the lists of the best books of the 20th century and this book is an easy competitor. Thank you so much for this gift of a novel, I’m recommending it to everyone!

  4. I rarely seek out an author’s e-mail address, but I have just finished reading Wilderness and want to let you know, Lance, how truly marvelous your story and your characters are. I read constantly and rarely come across a really, really lovely book. Your descriptions of the landscape are captivating. I’m not a writer so am having difficulty expressing how engrossed I was in your word pictures. Truly you paint with words — I paint with watercolor – but you use words. Thank you. I hope you will continue to write lots more books and stories.

    • Thanks for this. I worked hard on the landscape descriptions and am very lucky that “research” (at least for the scenes in Washington State) was as simple as throwing a pack and a pair of boots into the car and driving to the trailhead!

  5. Mr. Weller,
    Having encountered the term “mudshark” in your novel, I tried to research its origins without success. Would it have been used in 1899, the timeframe in which you used it? Can you shed any light on its historical use? Thank you.

    • Great question and thanks for asking it! “Mudshark,” as it’s used in Wilderness, is a particularly vile bit of racist slang that I’ve only encountered in very narrow regions near where I live. I, too, tried for a long time to trace its origins but met no success (so I’m sort of glad you couldn’t track it down either…makes me feel better about my research methods!).

  6. I finished Wilderness last night and I have to say the book was wonderful. I know this might sound embellished and pontificating but your prose brings back my favorite authors- Ken Kesey, John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy, with stories of man VS man and man VS nature. Just beautiful, beautiful writing, I can’t wait for the next novel.

    • Jeff, you just named three of my favorites. I can remember my first experience with each of these author’s work and my reactions to them: from the burning oranges in The Grapes of Wrath to working out the POV puzzles of Sometimes a Great Notion and reading then re-reading (then immediately buying) All the Pretty Horses in the middle of a Tacoma bookstore. So, thank you for the high praise!

  7. Lance – I’m writing a review of Wilderness for the Sequim Gazette’s Living on the Peninsula magazine, and for the Forks Forum. Can you contact me at the Forum? Thanks Chris Cook Editor

  8. I just finished reading Wilderness. What an amazing story, and what an unforgettable protagonist! I do have a question, though, about the dog. I don’t know if I should ask my question on your blog, just in case someone is reading it and hasn’t yet read Wilderness. If you have the time, would you please email me? Thank you again for a story that I will remember for the rest of my life.

  9. Lance
    How did WILDERNESS become accepted by Bloomsbury ?

    Last year I Indie-published a historical fiction novel, SILVER’S ODYSSEY, a survival tale of a Spanish shipwrecked
    soldier from the Atocha galleon in 1622. He too, has a physical and emotional plight to survive in the Florida wilderness so to return to Spain.

    On Amazon, but have yet to make more than about 70 Sales there.(Though local print signings are successful).

    Tips ?, again, how did you become accepted by Bloomsbury ?

  10. Hello Lance Weller,

    I’m writing a review of Wilderness for theBark, a national magazine that’s been called the New Yorker for dog lovers.
    Along with the review, we’d like to feature a Q&A with you. The catch is that we’d need to do a phone interview very soon, as my deadline is next Weds., March 13. (Apologies for the short notice – the editor had to be out of the office for a bit and I got the go-ahead for the Q&A portion just this morning.)

    Any chance you’d be available for a chat by phone sometime on Monday, March 11? My day is pretty open, and I’m also on the west coast.

    If Monday isn’t good and you’re game, maybe let me know of another day/time that might be possible – maybe Tuesday morning?

    Evenings are ok too.

    Thanks very much for considering this. Hope you and your dogs are well.

    All the best,

    Katherine Griffin

  11. Dear Mr. Weller: I am the Program Chairman of the Puget Sound Civil War Round Table in Seattle. Would you like to speak to one of our Thursday evening meetings between September 2013 and May 2014? Can provide details. Thank you.
    Patrick S. Brady

  12. Dear Mr. Weller,
    We would like to invite you to speak at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma as part of our upcoming exhibit on the history of the Civil War in the Northwest entitled “Civil War Pathways” on display from February 17-July 6, 2014. I can provide details and would appreciate discussing program options with you. Best,
    Susan Rohrer

    • Ms. Rohrer,

      Thank you for your kind officer. I apologize for the delay in responding. I was out of the country for part of last month and my publicist has also been away from the office. I have sent an email to her to confirm my schedule and as soon as I get the information back I will let you know my availability. This exhibit sounds very interesting and I would love to be a part of it. Once I confirm my availability I look forward to discussing details and options with you.

      All best,


  13. Hello Mr. Weller,
    I am a new author (my first novel will be published next year, 2014) by Knox Robinson Publishing. I was asked by my publisher to contact authors for professional reviews and, though I realize how far out on a limb I am stepping, I was wondering if you would be interested in reviewing my novel. I only ask you because I deeply respect your work. The novel is set in the late 19th century in Appalachia and follows three men as they try to make sense of their world, the violence, and their own actions.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Brandon Daily

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