New Fiction: Half Wild – Robin MacArthur

This debut collection could keep good company with the stories of Raymond Carver, Bonnie Jo Campbell and Annie Proulx. Carefully observed, they offer glimpses into the inner lives of average people struggling with loneliness and desire. And like Carver, Campbell and Proulx, the stories are made all the richer by the stark and isolating landscape that plays a significant part in shaping their lives.

Indie music fans may also know Robin MacArthur as one half of the band Red Heart the Ticker. This new creative effort has received good reviews and an Indie Next pick.

With lush and loving attention to detail, MacArthur’s collection of 11 stories covers 40 years of life in rural Vermont….Loneliness, lost loves, dilapidated trailers, parties littered with empty beer cans, and women running through the woods all feature prominently throughout the book….MacArthur is able to render complicated situations precisely and depict tenderness and harshness with an equally deft hand.”
Publishers Weekly

As the title suggests, MacArthur specializes in men and women who are trying to access an inner ferality….The lightly linked stories all take place in a fecund, unpaved region of the state that seems to sanction bad behavior: ‘God’s Country’ is written from the perspective of an elderly woman whose grandson is using her falling-down barn as a meeting place for a white-power group. Many of the conflicts are more interior, though, as is the case with the narrator of ‘The Heart of the Woods,’ who married a wealthy real estate developer but comes from lower-class logging stock: ‘How many years will I have to walk this line—trying to prove myself in both worlds I belong to?’….MacArthur writes about all this with intellectual force and grace.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Set in rural Vermont, Half Wild by Robin MacArthur is a portrait of the pine-filled landscape and its near-feral inhabitants. The land that they love, and their own love for that land, is changing. The pine and hemlock, the fields and ferns, the ice cold rivers near where they once grew gardens, hand-rolled cigarettes, tapped the maples, drank whiskey, made love, and cared for their children, is slipping away. The logging land becomes subdivisions, teenagers go off to war, people cheat, become hard, consumed by their longing and loneliness. These are slow, quiet tragedies lived out by the inhabitants with a kind of unsettling grace that befits their half-wild nature. They may be hardscrabble when it comes to their surroundings, but they each have their own ample heart.  For fans of Megan Mayhew Bergen and Bonnie Jo Campbell, this subtly fierce collection of stories is one I can’t wait to share with readers.
— Hilary Gustafson, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

“Fans of Bonnie Jo Campbell and Jim Harrison will go completely wild for Half Wild. This powerful debut collection of linked stories is full of characters who are shaped by their surroundings, evoking the beauties and horrors of life on the edge of the wilderness. Compelling and beautifully written!”
— Carol Schneck Varner, Schuler Books and Music, Okemos, MI

Half Wild: Stories (9780062444394) by Robin MacArthur. $24.99 hardcover. 8/2/16 on sale.

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