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The Wilding

3.46  ·  Rating Details  ·  771 Ratings  ·  143 Reviews
A powerful debut novel set in a threatened western landscape, from the award-winning author of Refresh, Refresh.

Echo Canyon is a disappearing pocket of wilderness outside of Bend, Oregon, and the site of conflicting memories for Justin Caves and his father, Paul. It’s now slated for redevelopment as a golfing resort. When Paul suggests one last hunting trip, Justin accepts
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by Graywolf Press (first published 2010)
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Best Books of 2010
316th out of 1,308 books — 2,411 voters
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Powell's Indiespensable
35th out of 59 books — 125 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,924)
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Jul 10, 2011 Brady rated it it was ok
Shelves: indiespensable
This book declined in my estimation the further I read. None of the characters elicit a ton of sympathy - maybe because ultimately they're pretty broad: the glad-handing local tycoon, the creepy stalker, the emotionally distant wife, the manly man grandfather, the wussy intellectual father, and so on. I started looking forward to the chapter breaks so that I could follow someone else's storyline, only to realize eventually that I was looking for the storyline of a character who didn't exist.

Oct 08, 2010 Cynthia rated it really liked it
“The Wilding” is seriously scary. It’s largely about fear; fear of your marriage ending, fear of crime, of war, the wilderness, the loss of our national wilderness and heritage, the death of loved ones. The heart of Percy’s story is a hunting trip with three generations of men. I don’t want to say too much about their adventures or that of the wife/mother they leave on her own but Percy keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat right to the end. He does this not with false leads but possib ...more
Apr 26, 2013 Lou rated it it was amazing
This is a story of men out in the woods, a grandfather, his son, and grandson, also a mysterious bear like creature, a kind of Bigfoot loose in the wild.
The first person narrative used, makes great reading, visceral, and page turning.
There are some interesting characters in this story, he really gets you into the characters minds, one mysterious guy a locksmith, a veteran of war, has some strange behaviours away from the eyes of neighbours.
The married couple of this story go through some martial
Richard Thomas
Dec 28, 2010 Richard Thomas rated it it was amazing
[This review was originally published at The Nervous Breakdown:]

The Wilding by Benjamin Percy is a powerful book packed with tension, unease, and life at the edge of the forest, where quite possibly man should stay. It is an intricate weaving of several different point of views: the fractured soldier back from fighting in Baghdad, Brian, who dresses up in the hide of wild animals, creeping around the woods, spying on a woman he longs for, eager for some s
review copy from publisher

Dark and suspenseful, a bit twisted, and certainly not for the weak of stomach, The Wilding is going to make you think twice about camping out in the woods!

Graywolf Press sent me the arc for this novel quite a few months ago. The premise - grandfather, father, son, and dog head deep into Echo Canyon for one last camping trip before it's destroyed and replaced with an Indian Casino - caught my attention and something about the title and the blurb whispered "creepy read".
Jan 04, 2011 Myfanwy rated it it was amazing
On the surface, you might consider Benjamin Percy’s chillingly brilliant new novel THE WILDING to be a classic tale of man vs. nature. Scratch beneath the surface, and you will find that man’s biggest fear is not the beast without, rather it is the beast within.

Commonly, we understand frontier times (and consequently the literature of that time) to be about (white) human beings conquering the land and conquering those (man and beast) who inhabit the land. THE WILDING has a kinship to the fronti
John Woodington
Jul 08, 2011 John Woodington rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Benjamin Percy's writing style is both beautiful and visceral, which makes for a great read on every page. He builds tension slowly and ominously, sucking the reader deep into the dark minds of his characters.

I appreciate the fact that he writes from an overtly masculine style, which seems to be frowned upon in literary circles. This is a book about men, and the stylistic approach Percy uses enhances the masculinity of the narrative.

Easily one of the best books I've read in a couple years.
Jan 31, 2011 Cynthia rated it really liked it
I was a little nervous that this was going to remind me of Hemingway's Nick Adams stories. I read some of those once to a Hospice client, and got sick of campfire, coffee and sizzling bacon descriptions.

This is not Nick Adams. Three generations of guys go to the woods to try and mend some fences and end up having a heck of a scary adventure. During a long winter night, who doesn't love a bear story? This definitely kept me on the edge of my seat.
Apr 21, 2012 Eric rated it it was ok
I can't recall why I ordered The Wilding. I believe I read a short story of Mr. Percy's somewhere, or maybe it was simply his nterview of Peter Straub in Tin House - although that seems a weak thread for buying a book - but at any rate the description of The Wilding on Amazon seemed sufficiently intriguing to merit purchase. It is a so so reading experience. As suspense books go, he is mildly more literary than, say, a Stephen King, but the characters all come out of Central Casting and lack the ...more
Jun 14, 2012 Christopher rated it liked it
When I found this book at the local used bookstore for cheap, I had no idea who Benjamin Percy is, but this particular copy is a signed, first edition, slipcased Powell's Indiespensable, so I had to buy it. Then when I read the first eighty pages, I had very high hopes. Percy's prose is something akin to Jonathan Franzen's, with metaphors and symbols aplenty, great use of shifting points of view, and interesting characterization.

The main plot of The Wilding is a camping trip with father Justin,
Darren Vincent
Sep 28, 2011 Darren Vincent rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2011
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Neil McCrea
The Wilding is less an eco novel and more a study on the nature of masculinity both socialized and inherent. Oddly, it reminded me of Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs even though the plots bear little resemblance to each other.

There are two main threads in this novel that run side by side and reflect off each other rather than intertwine. In one thread we have the story of grandfather, father, and son attempting to bridge the generation gap while battling a wilderness area that grows increasingly host
Chris McClinch
Dec 29, 2010 Chris McClinch rated it really liked it
I debated between three and four stars on this one, but decided that the strength of the prose was worth four. This was a strong debut novel, but it's plagued by some flaws that will probably embarrass Mr. Percy later in his career. A subplot featuring the protagonist's wife and a stalker feels tacked on and unnecessary, particularly because the wife is a thoroughly unlikable character. The novel is far stronger when dealing with the three generations of men in the woods. This is clearly the hea ...more
Nov 22, 2010 jeremy rated it liked it
Shelves: oregon-pnw, fiction
benjamin percy's debut novel the wilding quickly carves a captivating and suspenseful story, yet seems to stumble somewhere amidst its climax and dénouement. what begins as an intriguing tale with many narrative threads, concludes in a somewhat hasty, contrived manner. whereas i found myself nearly enraptured by the book early on, i was ultimately disappointed by the work as a whole. characters that percy undoubtedly worked hard to establish never seem to develop fully and are finally left to fl ...more
Dec 14, 2011 Steve rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
The degree to which Percy captures the experience of being in the forest is impressive and enviable, especially the ease with which he incorporates the details of flora and fauna, and the novel caught me quickly. As it developed, though, the elements I was most excited by got downplayed and the story hewed closer to the tropes of the wilderness adventure more than I'd hoped. So it ended up a reaffirmation of familiar attitudes of masculinity, the wild as foil to the domestic, the redemption of p ...more
Jun 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wilde Natur
Karen und Justin führen ein ruhiges Leben, er ist Lehrer, sie Ernährungsberaterin, ihr 12jähriger Sohn Graham intelligent und begabt. Sie könnten glücklich sein, doch wie sieht es unter der Oberfläche aus. Der vielleicht schon seit langem bestehende Riss scheint sich in die Unendlichkeit zu dehnen als Karen das zweite Kind verliert. Es fällt ihr und ihrem Mann schwer noch eine Brücke zu finden. Und dann meint auch noch Justins Vater Paul, er müsste mit Sohn und Enkel unbedingt mal ein
David Jordan
Oct 28, 2010 David Jordan rated it it was amazing
A bit thrillerish and over-busy plotwise for literary fiction, but native son Percy displays an astute grasp of Central Oregon’s geography, weather, flora, fauna and people in his first novel. The best portrayal of what it’s like to live in Oregon I’ve read since Ken Kesey’s “Sometimes A Great Notion,” it basically tells of a hunting-fishing trip that goes seriously awry for a Bend-area teacher, his macho father and his precocious son. Think “Deliverance” moves to Oregon.
May 04, 2011 Phil rated it it was ok
Much ado about nothing...

There was so much build up, and then the end fizzled, with nothing coming together.

It was an interesting study in the relationship between fathers and sons across two generations.

Unfortunately, that insight into the manly relationships wasn't enough to warrant a higher rating.

However, it was very smoothly written and an easy read. And I did finish it, so it gets two stars.
Nathanael Myers
Jan 06, 2013 Nathanael Myers rated it liked it
Good sentences. Percy has a gift for description and setting. The construction of the novel is flawed. Breaking the narrative into four or five perspectives doesn't quite work. Karen's POV seems extraneous, as does Paul's. Brian's and Justin's points of view are better developed. The bit with the bear strains credulity.
Ian Morgan
Dec 26, 2010 Ian Morgan rated it it was ok
This damn book was very, very well written and thoughtful. But it is all buildup. The ending is dull and anti-climatic with way too many loose ends. I enjoyed the read until I discovered I was reading a 288 page preface.
Michael Seidlinger
Mar 14, 2012 Michael Seidlinger rated it it was ok
One day, the only way we'll be able to enjoy nature will be to buy National Geographic and BBC nature specials with calm, soothing narration by people like Morgan Freeman and David Attenborough.
Dec 22, 2010 Rob rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
good enough to keep me from putting it down, but not good enough to make me recommend it. quick, easy read, pretty predictable, but entertaining nonetheless
Oct 06, 2013 Leila rated it liked it
I enjoy horror stories, ghost stories, and thrillers. I like to feel the gripping tension that makes my stomach clench and my jaw muscles tighten … waiting … to find out … what will happen next.

Frequently, throughout The Wilding I felt that delightful nervous anxiety. And I enjoyed the characterizations of the male characters as archetypes: Justin the middle-class, suburban neutered husband; Paul the old school, brusque and blunt father (incapable of having a close, meaningful relationship with
May 24, 2011 Michael rated it liked it
This book was a mixed bag for me. It has a story theme and characters very much like James Dickey's "Deliverance". It takes place around Bend, OR. and involves a father Carl, son Justin, and grandson Brendon embarking on a hunting trip into the wilderness which is about to be destroyed by land development. There is tension between the rugged Carl and timid Justin much like the characters in Deliverance. This time instead of being stalked by angry hillbillies, it is a grizzly bear that they are c ...more
Nov 22, 2010 Reacher rated it liked it
(First, my advice to new readers: skip ahead to chapter 3 (entitled "Brian") and read that first, then go back and start at the beginning. Why? Because chap. 3 is frankly a flippin unbelivable piece of writing and will give you a better taste of the quality that lies ahead. I found the first 2 chapters to be the weakest of the novel, and I don't think it does the book justice. You also won't miss or lose anything by reading chapter 3 first.)

There are writers and there are storytellers; Percy is
Jason Jordan
Oct 21, 2012 Jason Jordan rated it liked it
Known for his short story collections The Language of Elk and Refresh, Refresh, Benjamin Percy now tries his hand at the novel with The Wilding. The Oregonian Justin Caves is a high school teacher whose marriage is on shaky ground. While his twelve-year-old son, Graham, "is the type of boy who prefers books to BB guns, who makes his bed every morning," Justin's father, Paul, "has always been like bad weather--relentless, expansive, irritating--but since the heart attack he has grown even wilder ...more
George Seaton
Jul 09, 2013 George Seaton rated it really liked it
Shelves: western-writers
Lots of angst here. A patriarch who expects more from his grown, schoolteacher son, and the son knowing it, but also knowing he could never be what his father wants him to be. A wife so tired of being a wife, and celebrating her discontent by running, running, running. The schoolteacher's son, ambivalent toward his father, but seeing worth in the crude manliness of his grandfather. An Iraq vet, crippled by the insanity of that war as well as the headaches that roil from the IED inflicted damage ...more
I didn't love this book, but now that I'm done with it, it's kind of hard to say why. For one thing, the characters weren't that memorable. Each time the perspective shifted, I had to stop and think, "Wait, which one is Brian? Ok, got it." Maybe it was partly because their names weren't very memorable, and all kind of blended together. Karen-Justin-Brian-Bobby-Paul. I don't necessarily believe all characters in all novels have to have unique names, but changing it up a little never hurts.
Melissa Reddish
Oct 03, 2010 Melissa Reddish rated it really liked it
One of the taglines for this book is "Not your father's eco-novel," which is a pretty apt description for how Percy combines timeless themes that have been well-plumbed in literature with more contemporary themes. On the one hand, you have several male characters traveling into the heart of darkness (both physical and metaphorical, of course) and several shifting predator/prey relationships (Man v. Nature, Nature v. Man, Man v. Man). Percy seems fully aware of his predecessors-- Conrad, Hemingwa ...more
Nov 24, 2012 Jim rated it liked it
The Wilding is a difficult book to review. The first one-half to two-thirds is pretty much like our daily life. It goes on without much drama. In this case — the setting is in Bend and eastern Oregon — you have a school teacher dad (Justin) who is married to a health-conscious, body-is-a-temple type of woman (Karen) and their 12-year-old rather shy son (Graham). The school teacher’s dad (Paul) is a big-time developer and outdoorsman. The wife can’t stand the grandfather. The marriage is on the r ...more
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Benjamin Percy is the author of three novels, The Dead Lands (forthcoming from Grand Central/Hachette in 2015), Red Moon (Grand Central/Hachette, 2013) and The Wilding (Graywolf Press, 2010), as well as two books of short stories, Refresh, Refresh and The Language of Elk. His fiction and nonfiction have been published in Esquire (where he is a contributing editor), GQ, Time, Men's Journal, Outside ...more
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“When she thinks of the toxins built up inside of her from so many years of eating carelessly, of the resentment that has grown steadily over fifteen years of marriage, of the stretch marks and the varicose veins that came from two pregnancies, only one of them fulfilled, she thinks the inside of her body must tell a story like a tree. Were she to break open a bone, perhaps it would look like the inside of a coffee mug - riddled with lines, stained with brown blotches.” 5 likes
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