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Man in the Woods

3.23  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,399 Ratings  ·  246 Reviews
One of the most acclaimed modern American novelists, Scott Spencer captures the intensity of human passion—and its capacity to both destroy and redeem—with unparalleled precision and insight. Now, in his most stunning novel yet, this wry, witty, and deeply sensitive writer returns to the territory of his New York Times bestseller A Ship Made of Paper, in a gripping and pro ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 14th 2010 by Ecco
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(showing 1-30 of 2,805)
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May 17, 2012 karen rated it liked it

i am having difficulty finding an angle to approach this book report. i felt very medium about this book, and i can't understand why.

this is a grown-up book. by which i think i mean "staid." there is nothing funny in this book. there is nothing surprising, or scary, or particularly dark. it does its business quietly and competently, but there is no real "oomph" to it. i really felt like it was one of those procedural shows i have on in the background while i chop vegetables or fold to
Will Byrnes
Jun 17, 2015 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it
It is 1999 and the terror of Y2K is on the horizon. Paul is a carpenter, capable, reserved, who is living in a New York suburb with Kate, a recovering alcoholic, recent convert to Christianity and newly published author of a best-seller about her recovery and conversion. They have a lovely life together, sexual, open, satisfying, and with the success of her book, comfortable. But when Paul, a good man, out in the park one day, interferes with a swindler who is beating his dog, things get out of ...more
Bonnie Brody
Feb 28, 2012 Bonnie Brody rated it it was amazing
Scott Spencer's Man in the Woods is a novel that chronicles the life of Paul Phillips, a man who has been on his own since he was sixteen years old. Paul is both a simple and a complex man - simple because he has relied on good luck and good looks to open many doors, and complicated because he is an artisan of deep convictions that he is unwilling to compromise. He is not a man to say very much but a lot goes on in his mind that does not come out in words. He creates beautiful furniture, crafts, ...more
Aug 02, 2011 Bradley rated it it was ok
Really wasn't too happy with this book. After 'The Event' in the woods,I was preparing for a cat and mouse game between police and Paul, girlfriend and Paul, anyone and Paul. It just went nowhere. Some reviewers tossed this book on a pedestal. Throughout the entire novel, I was questioning why. I didn't care about the characters. I didn't care about the plot. I didn't care about anything. I was almost 3/4 of the way in when I realized this book was going nowhere. I thought I better finish it. Ju ...more
Jul 31, 2016 Bandit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite randomly my recent audio book selections have had a lot to do with faith. But also, in this case, meaning and justice. I've recently learned the expression condign justice (from another audio book actually, took a while to figure out the spelling), the subject of it has fascinated me long before this vocabulary expansion. And so if a good man commits one terrible wrong (although I'm sure some would find it practically justifiable under the circumstances) and a great many good deeds...what ...more
Jim Thomsen
Jan 16, 2011 Jim Thomsen rated it really liked it
While not categorized as a "crime novel," Scott Spencer's "Man In The Woods" is populated by characters who dwell in souls slowly corroded by crime compounded by time.

At its troubled heart lies a simple yet complicated question: Is it really better to get away with murder?

The irony in whatever the answer may be is that the murder in this book isn't really murder ... but, after a series of decisions that the principal characters find at first impossible to live with, and then horribly easier to
Delaney Diamond
Nov 13, 2010 Delaney Diamond rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 08, 2011 Scott rated it it was ok
Well I read this book because I saw it on a list of the best books of 2010. Meh. It’s a kind of decent premise: a man meets another man by chance in a park and in a matter of minutes one dies and the other’s life is altered forever. The story is about the aftermath. The characters seem interesting enough on the surface, a simple carpenter, the woman who loves him and is a recovered alcoholic/religious spokesperson but no longer believes, her strange young daughter, a lesbian carpenter’s assistan ...more
Dec 12, 2010 Michelle rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
Scott Spencer is an amazing writer, no doubt about it. I love the style of his prose: succinct, clever and often jaw-droppingly precise. His words evoke an almost physical reaction. You can feel cold where there is cold, warmth where there is warmth. Despite this, Man in the Woods, about an otherwise “good” man who does a terrible thing, was at times slow for me. I understood what the author was trying to do, show the gray areas of human behavior (and, let’s be honest, a gray kind of character i ...more
Mar 27, 2012 Trish rated it did not like it
I'm sure Spencer has some fans. My review has less to do with his lack of skill than my lack of interest. I found myself actually wincing at some of the dialogue. The religious nut broke the proverbial camel's back. I liked the idea of a man who worked with wood and I get all the meanings of Man in the Woods. I really liked the central problem--mistakenly killing a man--and can see how this could be an interesting core to a story. But there were too many inconceivables and too many boring people ...more
Nov 03, 2010 Alecia rated it did not like it
I was very disappointed in this book and I forced myself to finish. Except for the pivotal happening re: the death in the woods, there is no plot. And even if the exploration of guilt and/or good vs. evil were themes, I didn't find Spencer delving into these themes with enough depth. I thought the plotting was stagnant, meandering into uninteresting asides, and found little depth in the charachters.
Oct 15, 2012 Cathy rated it did not like it
make up your mind, do you want to talk about love, religion, family, murder, conscience, what???? the whole mystery thing, whodunit didn't add up and didn't make sense. not a good read!
Aug 13, 2016 Holly rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-reads
Imagine a good man with a good life who encounters another man alone in the woods abusing a dog. What happens next? That's one way to approach explaining this novel to someone who hasn't read it. But there could be several other ways to go about it: I described the plot to David last night after finishing, and started with that essential premise - which could have lent itself to a mystery-thriller - but then I was speaking of morality, and our dark impulses, and what is it to be good person, and ...more
Mark Stevens
Dec 19, 2010 Mark Stevens rated it liked it
"It's strange how the law seems to be completely asleep...and then suddenly one day it just opens its eyes and grabs you."

That's a line from late in "Man in the Woods," when readers might be wondering if Paul Phillips will pay any consequence for his actions. The mid-section of the book will make you squirm. There's a sensation that Phillips might walk away. He's certainly found the perfect companion in Kate Ellis, who knows a thing or two about life-changing moments and forgiveness. She's a rec
Dec 14, 2010 Keirstan rated it liked it
A man pulls into a state park to get some fresh air before a long drive home and encounters another, more sinister, man beating his confused and frightened dog. Reason escapes and soon enough the first man has savagely beaten the second to death. Thus is the action that sets the stage for Scott Spencer’s MAN IN THE WOODS.

MAN IN THE WOODS uses the idea of extreme circumstance to generate a conversation about character and consequences. The primary subjects of this study are Paul Phillips and Kate
Jan 22, 2011 Sherry rated it really liked it
This book is a good one to discuss with a friend or in a book club. There is a lot to talk about and the writing is beautiful. I admire the literary value, although I do not care for the atmosphere Spencer creates in this book. Spencer wrote some beautiful passages that give very good insight into the interior life of his characters. The plot broods along, heading to its logical end. The mood reminds me of sepia photos of a cold autumn dusk. Spencer touches on themes that have to do with faith, ...more
Jun 04, 2011 Kerry rated it liked it
I Love Scott Spencer and am always looking for his next book. I say that as an opener because it taints my view point quite a bit. This is a haunting story which is what I've come to expect from Spencer's writing. Yet I did not award it as many stars as many of the other readers--because I do expect so much more. It moved a little slow for my taste, I ended up putting it down for awhile but the story would not leave my head and I had to see how it finished. That in itself is worth the three star ...more
Jan 17, 2012 Gloria marked it as bailed-on-it
It's been awhile since I've bailed on a book.
This one took me all the way to page 13 before I had to toss it aside.

Caveat: The first chapter (from the man's point-of-view) wasn't terrible, and actually made me slightly interested.

Second chapter began from the woman's POV and I was torn between eye-rolling and laughter. After reading about her boots flicking "in and out from beneath her (skirt's) hem like lizard tongues," the groaning thunder and "flash of lightning illuminating its cobalt univer
Oct 02, 2011 Janet rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
This books seemed to be touted as psychological fiction. More like psychological Ambien. It's pretty much just boring. Paul has a violent encounter with a "man in the woods," and most of the book is the aftermath of that event. The problem is that the characters are just annoying. Paul himself seems to be set up as pretty much a perfect man--talented, sensitive, etc. His girlfriend is a born-again recovering alcoholic, who now makes a fortune from a book she wrote. Her daughter Ruby appears to b ...more
Edwin Arnaudin
Jan 24, 2011 Edwin Arnaudin rated it did not like it
Stephen King placed Man in the Woods up with Franzen's Freedom as a great work of contemporary U.S. fiction, a comment that shot it to the top of my To-Read list.

The first chapter was interesting, but the style of the second felt lifeless and by the third I had no desire to go on. Spencer's writing is descriptive but fails to engage, and the character whose appearance in Chapter Two made me doubt my future with the text is apparently the lead character for the rest of the novel. I gave it the Sa
Erin Cupp
Apr 05, 2016 Erin Cupp rated it it was amazing
Man in the Woods is a psychological thriller that deals, among many other things, with the definition of what makes a man a man in our detached, sterile society. Given that theme, it is set in the midst of the Y2K anxieties... and what happens when those anxieties do not reach their dreaded fruition. Paul is a craftsman, a highly sought-after carpenter, who commits a crime of passion, the only witness to which is a stolen dog. Paul is a likable character with flaws and secrets and a doubt-smothe ...more
Jack Cheng
Apr 05, 2016 Jack Cheng rated it it was amazing
I want everyone to read this book so we can then talk about it.

This is not a crime novel, although there is a crime committed, it is not a religious novel, although gaining and losing faith are part of it, it's not a romance, although there is a strong relationship depicted. Remove all expectations (this is what seems to trip up people who gave this book bad reviews).

Scott Spencer writes novels about passionate people. They love their jobs. They are crushed by disappointments. They are frighten
Apr 21, 2016 Scott rated it liked it
Shelves: keepers
A Tell Tale Heart story that delves deeper into the psychology of all those around the central character of the book. It goes deep into each characters emotions, and their philosophies on life as well. The ending left me wanting to know more, which made me a little upset, but in actuality it probably ended the way it should have, with no closure. Not only did the ending leave me wanting to know more, but their was just something missing the entire novel that left me wanting more throughout the r ...more
Diane Dachota
Sep 16, 2014 Diane Dachota rated it really liked it
This was my first book by Spencer, who is a known literary writer and I am interested in reading his others. The book is not a straightforward mystery, but rather a story about a man's inner life and what life means. Paul is a carpenter, a somewhat mysterious man who comes upon a man beating a dog in the woods. Enraged, he fights with the man and ends up killing him. Paul's guilt and how the killing affects his life is the sum of the story.

I was also interested in Paul's girlfriend, a born again
Evanston Public  Library
Paul, a self sufficient artist, and Kate, a Christian author and inspirational speaker, seem to complete one another and provide a refuge for Kate's daughter Ruby. But a moment of crisis threatens their happiness. Scott Spencer imagines authentic characters reacting to a disastrous moment of violence. Spencer's writing is visceral, sensitive and thought provoking. (Connie H., Branch Librarian)
Sep 28, 2010 Vanessa rated it it was ok
This book ambled along, finally finished and left me feeling like I had gained nothing from reading it. I didn't need for it to charged along with twists and turns but I did not understand why i was spending all of this time with these characters. It did not seem to go anywhere.
Dec 26, 2011 Joye rated it really liked it
This is not a complicated book, but deals with a complex moral issue. How does one cope with taking another's life. What if punishment may not happen in this world? I enjoyed the writing and look forward to reading another of Scott Spencer's work.
Feb 01, 2011 JAK rated it liked it
I love Scott Spencer's total involvement in the mind of man; why people do the things they do. Good story here....gets bogged down a bit. But, what happens if you do something...and no one knows?
Feb 23, 2011 Terry rated it liked it
An easy read. Lovely images. Disturbing premise. But don't we all have those tendencies to go over the edge of sanity when pushed to our limits?
May 28, 2010 Lori marked it as to-read
galley from BEA
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Scott Spencer (b. 1945) is the critically acclaimed, bestselling author of ten novels, including Endless Love and A Ship Made of Paper, both of which have been nominated for the National Book Award. Two of his books, Endless Love and Waking the Dead, have been adapted into films.

He has taught at Columbia University, the University of Iowa, and Williams College, and Bard College's Bard Prison Initi
More about Scott Spencer...

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