The Vaster Wilds: Book Review

Few books have moved me this year like Lauren Groff's The Vaster Wilds. Simultaneously bleak and hopeful, this 2023 release was hard to put down. Propulsive and unrelenting, The Vaster Wilds is a great example of historical fiction that reads more like literary fiction, making it a great choice for fans of either genre. I've thought about this book almost daily since finishing this summer, which is one of the many reasons it earned a spot on my Best Books Published in 2023 list. Grab your copy and find out why it was one of my favorite reads of the year.

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The Vaster Wilds

Quick Look

  • historical fiction + literary fiction⁣
  • Colonial American setting⁣
  • immersive and atmospheric⁣
  • profoundly beautiful yet bleak AF⁣
  • full of social commentary

Pub Date: September 12, 2023⁣

Thank you @RiverheadBooks for the advanced reader copy!⁣

Publisher's Synopsis

A taut and electrifying novel from celebrated bestselling author Lauren Groff, about one spirited girl alone in the wilderness, trying to survive

A servant girl escapes from a colonial settlement in the wilderness. She carries nothing with her but her wits, a few possessions, and the spark of god that burns hot within her. What she finds in this terra incognita is beyond the limits of her imagination and will bend her belief in everything that her own civilization has taught her.

Lauren Groff’s new novel is at once a thrilling adventure story and a penetrating fable about trying to find a new way of living in a world succumbing to the churn of colonialism. The Vaster Wilds is a work of raw and prophetic power that tells the story of America in miniature, through one girl at a hinge point in history, to ask how—and if—we can adapt quickly enough to save ourselves.

My Review

This is my first Lauren Groff, and, based on my reading experience, it will certainly not be my last. I did an audio/physical combo of this book and was equally mesmerized by both formats. Groff's prose is wildly evocative and engrossing, drawing the reader into the heart of the story and making you feel as if you are running through the forest alongside the protagonist, hunted and wild. The story's harsh elements and the author's stark portrayal of the young girl's circumstances create a sense of urgency that I haven't felt in other new releases this year, making it hard to put this book down. I needed to know what would become of the poor creature left to her own devices in the wilderness.

One of the things I loved the most about this book is the way the author unveiled the sequence of events. We learn early in the book that the young girl has run from the settlement, but it's unclear why. Groff dribbles out information along the way until finally revealing the reality of the girl's circumstances. And in the end, I was left absolutely gobsmacked, tearfully rereading the last pages multiple times. This book is profound, visceral, bleak, existential, and beautiful—a must-read. ⁣

My Rating

Lauren Groff's new novel, The Vaster Wilds, is one of the Best Books Published in 2023. I've recommended this one over and over. Great for historical fiction and literary fiction lovers who appreciate social commentary and hard-to-read circumstances, this book will stick with readers long after The End. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy for your forever shelf.

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About Carlie

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