The Horror Honeys: Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ The Wilding

Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ The Wilding

A Book of the Week Review by Jocelyn

The Wilding by Benjamin Percy

After recently reading Benjamin Percy’s The Dead Lands and absolutely loving it, I dipped into his back catalog to try this one as well. Although I did not find it nearly as gripping, I have a feeling I may not be the target reader for this one, so your mileage may vary.

Justin Caves has an absurdly manly father, Paul. The name is no coincidence, as he is a very Paul Bunyan type, large, woodsy, self-sufficient, and impatient. We don’t actually hear Paul’s name much throughout the book; he is referred to simply as “Justin’s father” or “his father.” My absolutely favorite Paul anecdote is this short tale “One winter, after his woodpile receded faster than he knew it ought to, he drilled a hole deep into a piece of firewood and filled it with gunpowder and sealed it with putty – and when the living room of his neighbor, Mr. Ott, exploded several days later, Justin’s father called FTD with a smile on his face and ordered flowers delivered to the hospital.” DAMN, Paul – cold-blooded!

Justin lives with his wife, Karen, and their bookish son Graham. Things haven’t been great between Justin and Karen lately after a miscarriage, and they are having trouble communicating.  Meanwhile, a developer is getting ready to cut down thousands of trees nearby where Justin and his dad used to camp, hunt and fish, so when Paul asks Justin to go on one last camping trip before the new golf course breaks ground, Justin agrees, and plans to bring Graham along.

So off they go into the woods, despite reports and evidence of a bear in the area, and Karen is left at home to fend off advances from the aforementioned slimy developer, and remain unaware that she is being watched, closely, by a local locksmith, who just isn’t quite the same since he returned from Iraq. In one of the book’s best passage, Brian, the locksmith, gets together with some former Army buddies, and can’t understand how they seem so well-adjusted (“He wondered if they kept guns hidden throughout their houses – behind the silverware, next to the toothpaste, shoved between the mattress and box spring”).  This book definitely made me sad that we don’t spend more time and money on our veterans.

As Justin, Paul and Graham make their way through the woods, at first enjoying themselves but growing less and less secure as something seems to be targeting their campsite and, indeed, even tracking them, I was reminded of the movie The Edge several years ago – I always feel guilty that I don’t enjoy David Mamet movies as much as I should and this was so much like that, people sticking it out in conditions well past the point that any sane person would have bailed, which was hard for me as a reader to understand. Percy’s language is spare and beautiful throughout and I think for me, part of the issue is that this feels like a very “winter” book – and I was reading it by the pool.

I would be interesting in hearing what some of you more outdoorsy types think of it, maybe some of the “beauty of nature” stuff was wasted on this electricity-and-running-water girl.

Hardcover Honey Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 tall trees