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The Wilding

3.48 of 5 stars 3.48  ·  rating details  ·  673 ratings  ·  134 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
304th out of 1,245 books — 2,350 voters
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Powell's Indiespensable
24th out of 51 books — 102 voters

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Community Reviews

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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.

“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
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
[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".
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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 3 of 5 stars
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
Jul 15, 2014 Levi added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: city dwellers with the itch
Shelves: fiction-novels
[This review has been retracted. See it here:]
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
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
(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
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
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.
Mel Reddish
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
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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
More about Benjamin Percy...
Red Moon Refresh, Refresh The Language of Elk The Dead Lands Detective Comics #35

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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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