The Woods


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Pub Date 10 Nov 2022 | Archive Date 10 Nov 2022
University of Iowa Press, University Of Iowa Press

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The Woods explores the lives of people in a small Vermont college town and its surrounding areas—a place at the edge of the bucolic, where the land begins to shift into something untamed. In the tradition of Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge and Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, these stories follow people who carry private griefs but search for contentment. As they try to make sense of their worlds, grappling with problems—worried about their careers, their marriages, their children, their ambitions—they also sift through the happiness they have, and often find deep solace in the landscape.

What do we find in the woods? An uplifting of spirit or a quieting of sorrow. A sense of being haunted by the past. Sometimes rougher, more violent things: abandoned quarries and feral cats, black bears, brothers caught up in an escalating war, a ghost who wishes to pass on her despair, monsters who boom with hollow ecstatic laughter. But also songbirds: the hermit thrush and the winter wren. Rushing rivers glossy with froth. A nineteenth-century inn that’s somehow gotten by all these years. And far within, a vegetal twilight and constant dusk that feels outside of time. This remarkable debut illuminates the ways we all carry within ourselves aspects stark, beautiful, wild, and unknowable.
The Woods explores the lives of people in a small Vermont college town and its surrounding areas—a place at the edge of the bucolic, where the land begins to shift into something untamed. In the...

Advance Praise

“These are such richly inhabited storyworlds, tottering between the wild and the civilized, peeking into places made stunningly lucid with language but still mysterious in the way the natural world is mysterious. What a thrilling debut!”—Aimee Bender, author, The Butterfly Lampshade

“In Janice Obuchowski’s stories, the woods surrounding a Vermont college town are as suffused with mystery and dread as any forest found in the Brothers Grimm. The characters adrift in these woods are viscerally alive and heartbreakingly real as they search for a route back to the world they knew. By situating the universal experience of bewilderment within one specifically observed woods, Obuchowski has crafted a genuine work of art.”—Anthony Marra, judge, John Simmons Short Fiction Award

The Woods is a smart, moving collection—descriptive, evocative—with rich and believable worlds for readers to immerse themselves in.”—Megan Mayhew Bergman, author, How Strange a Season

“I was happy to be lost in the shadows, clearings, and tangled vines of these stories—each is generous, funny, and beautifully precise, and together they make something gorgeous. I am Janice Obuchowski’s great big fan.”—Ramona Ausubel, author, Awayland

“Janice Obuchowski’s stories place us in a very particular world, the world of college town Vermont, where intellect rules but The Woods summon, her narrators like woodland sirens. We meet people at both ends of life—young academics and those looking back from retirement—as well as locals making sense of their changing communities, all of them lured to the liminal space of the woods. In beautiful, compelling, precise prose, Obuchowski observes the human ability to go on in the face of the unknown, the regretted, the unexpected, and, perhaps most important, the unchangeable. As with all the best fables, one thinks: don’t go into the woods. But of course you must.”—Lori Ostlund, author, After the Parade

“Janice Obuchowski’s voice—deliberate, lucid, arrestingly authoritative—is a pleasure; with a careful eye and generous measured style she renders a Vermont landscape and its inhabitants. With its cast of recurring characters, and exquisite attention to place, this collection calls to mind Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge.”—Amanda Coplin, author, The Orchardist

“Obuchowski’s lucid debut collection digs into the isolation and complexities of her characters’ inner worlds... evocative interior descriptions and subtle revelations about the characters’ relationships to place.”—Publishers Weekly

“These are such richly inhabited storyworlds, tottering between the wild and the civilized, peeking into places made stunningly lucid with language but still mysterious in the way the natural world...

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ISBN 9781609388751
PRICE $18.50 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

I really enjoyed these connected stories. A great book about place and those we are. Look forward to more by this author

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As a reader, I always gravitate toward creative intersections of place and personhood, and The Woods nails it. Gorgeously crafted scenes point to a larger world, with snapshots of characters I'd follow into much broader treatments. Obuchowski's use of language, her talent for interweaving high-level themes with on-the-ground tone, and the slow-burn collapse of comfort and expectation give rise to an extraordinarily engaging collection. A high recommend.

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Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and author for giving me the chance to read and review this book! What first appealed to me was the book cover, it is honestly simple, yet so beautiful that it really drew me in and often, covers can really set the tone for the book for me. This book is a collection of short stories of a small college town and surrounding areas in Vermont with a lot of woods, which each reminded me so much of my own small midwestern town. The author has a great writing style and does well with descriptions to set the scene. I think I really enjoy “The Potions” the most of all of the short stories; the story and characters were very relatable for me. Each short story really has a way of pulling you in, but also ending at just the right time to leave you satisfied with the story presented, which is appreciated and makes each of these a quick and effortless read. As someone who lives surrounded by woods, I know that I will now often be reminded of these characters and their stories whenever I step outside. I would definitely recommend this book to a friend.

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This beautiful collection of stories of a town in Vermont is more of a study of normal people and of grief.

Ordinary people, with ordinary lives, all dealing with their own pain and their own problems, all going on their own day by day. It's a beautiful way to look at life, Just a slice of life.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review.

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A beautiful collection of stories written with lyrical prose.

I am not usually a fan of short stories, but this was so lovingly written, you could read the care that she constructed each story with. The reader gets a strong sense of the subjects, the landscape, the world. In the first story when she is describing the hike in the woods with her neighbor to the statue made of chicken wire, you get transported. You can smell the crisp air, hear the leaves crunch underfoot, and even the spooky wonder of the figure herself is crafted with so much sensual description you are transported.

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I love how this collection of short stories revolve around the woods, namely the Green National Forest. There is a sense of calm as the characters from each story find comfort while going through their everyday struggles.

I also love how the author can quickly turn a calm and inviting scenery into a gloomy, dark one. Her characters are everyday people who are working near the woods and the challenges they face in their lives is similar to how resilient nature can be in order to survive.

I definitely enjoyed this one. Thank you Netgalley and University of Iowa Press for the arc.

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As a longtime admirer of Janice Obuchowski's fiction, I'm delighted to see these stories compiled into a beautiful collection published by University of Iowa Press as winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award. Obuchowski's stories manage to be both bold and quiet, with crystalline sentences that are worth pausing for and lingering over. The woods provide a literal and metaphorical backdrop for this collection: the resilient characters get lost but keep searching and persisting, bringing the reader along on their journeys. These stories are a timely examination of our human condition--they plumb deep and do so in haunting, exquisite prose.

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Rich, decadent and smooth each short story was worth reading from start to finish. I enjoyed every second I spent reading them.

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