Followed by the Lark
by Helen Humphreys
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Pub Date 13 Feb 2024 | Archive Date 13 Mar 2024
A novel as wise as it is tender, a meditation on the miracle of friendship and the heartbreak of change, Followed by the Lark inhabits the life of Henry David Thoreau.
Composed in small scenes, Followed by the Lark is a novel of meditations—on loss, on change, on the danger and healing that come from communion with the natural world.
Henry David Thoreau's connection to nature was tied to his feelings of grief; before he was twenty-seven years old and went to live at Walden Pond, two of those closest to him had died—his older brother, John, and his friend Charles Wheeler. Nature provided solace for these losses, but the world was changing around him. The forests were being destroyed by the logging industry. Wildlife was increasingly slaughtered for profit and sport. The railroad clanged through his quiet hometown. And the catastrophes of the American Civil War were beginning to stir just as his own life was coming to an end. Haunting in its quiet spaces, in the way it imagines the missed connections in his relationships, Followed by the Lark is uncommon in its combination of scope and brevity, in its communion with its subject while still maintaining critical distance.
Thoreau’s life in the early nineteenth century seems firmly in the past, but his time bears striking similarities to ours. As she explores these intersections in Followed by the Lark, Helen Humphreys elegantly, insistently illustrates how Thoreau’s concerns are still, vitally, our own.
A Note From the Publisher
“[An] affectionate meander through the life of Henry David Thoreau . . . whose enthusiasts will find much to delight here.” —Kirkus Reviews
“This Thoreau is flawed, human, muddling through, and yet also prescient about the consequences of empire and what some called progress. Followed by the Lark is a beautiful threnody and elegy for what is lost as we grow and what is destroyed by colonization.” —Sarah Moss, author of The Fell
“What a balm, this book, the way it returns us to the nouns of the world: the birds, the stones, the stumps, an apple in the pocket, a brother, a pond. It made me want to go outside. By inhabiting Thoreau, letting us walk with him through the Concord woods, Followed by the Lark shows the natural world offering order against the messy stuff of human life—its disappointments, confusions, periods of lockjawed grief. With muscle and melancholy, it reminds us that a sense of meaning rises from a sense of place, and that attention is a form of reverence, and love.” —Nina MacLaughlin, author of Wake, Siren
“Followed by the Lark unfolds like friendship itself: the initial surprise, delightful as the first bluebird of spring, followed by the long years and sneakily brief seasons of mutual discoveries, tensions, and shared losses. Helen Humphreys has written a textured, intimate companion to our factual knowledge of Thoreau, and, in the meantime, evoked a longing in this reader for a deeper connection to the natural world. A gem of a book.” —Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men
“Helen Humphreys has given us a Thoreau tenderly, mindfully observed in moments to be experienced much as the good surveyor of Concord did himself: with a sauntering curiosity that brings life into our hearts, bearing all its freshness, all its depths and contradictions. I will treasure this book.” —Trevor Herriot, author of The Economy of Sparrows
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 6 members
Thanks to Netgalley and FSG for the ebook. A fascinating novel that follows Henry David Thoreau through most of his life. It’s great at capturing the few life long friends, the early deaths, including his older brother John, that crushed him and made him question so much and the other family members that were with him his entire life, but the book seems to pull off a magic trick in the sense that half of the book is Thoreau describing tress, flowers, plants, animals, big and small, and even the weather and somehow this is not in any way distancing, it actually brings Thoreau into much sharper view.