Woodsburner by John Pipkin
A Novel

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Set against the backdrop of a devastating forest fire that Henry David Thoreau accidentally set in 1844, John Pipkin's novel brilliantly illuminates the mind of the young philosopher at a formative moment in his life and in the life of the young nation.

The Thoreau of Woodsburner is a lost soul, resigned to a career designing pencils for his father's factory while dreaming of better things. On the day of the fire, his path crosses those of three very different people, each of whom also harbors a secret dream. Oddmund Hus, a shy Norwegian farmhand, pines for the wife of his brutal employer. Eliot Calvert, a prosperous bookseller, is also a hilariously inept aspiring playwright. Caleb Dowdy preaches fire and brimstone to his followers through an opium haze. Each of their lives, like Thoreau's, will be changed forever by the fire.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About John Pipkin

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JOHN PIPKIN was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, and he holds degrees from Washington and Lee University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Rice University. He has taught writing and literature at Saint Louis University, Boston University, and Southwestern University. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and son.
Published April 16, 2009 by Anchor. 386 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Norwegian immigrant farmhand Oddmund Hus, still haunted by images of the fire ignited when the ship that had borne his family to America exploded in Boston Harbor, yearns for his dour employer’s buxom Irish wife, and agonizes over whether the recent brush fire he tended had made him the inadverte...

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The New York Times

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“I once set fire to the woods,” Henry David Thoreau laconically confided to his journal in 1850, six years after he torched approximately 300 acres of Concord forest.

May 01 2009 | Read Full Review of Woodsburner: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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Pipkin jumps effortlessly among the perspectives of Henry David and several unconnected townsfolk brought together by the fire, taking the blaze itself as his central character: ""not one enemy but many, thousands of individual flames, chewing through trees, taking possession of the woods as if t...

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