Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad Through the Wild

Rate this book
Novella Carpenter picks up the phone one day to receive some disturbing news: her father has officially gone missing. Carpenter’s father, George—a back-to-the-land homesteader and troubled Korean War veteran—has spent decades battling his inner demons while largely absenting himself from his children’s lives. Though George is ultimately found, Carpenter is forced to confront the truth: her time with her dad—now seventy-three years old—is limited, and the moment to restore their relationship is now. Gone Feral is the story of Carpenter’s search for her parents’ broken past in the harsh wilds of Idaho.

The story starts in San Miguel de Allende in 1969, where Carpenter’s free-spirited parents meet and fall in love. Their whirlwind romance continues through Europe and ends on 180 acres near Idaho’s Clearwater River. Carpenter and her sister are born into a free, roaming childhood, but soon the harsh reality of living on the land—loneliness, backbreaking labor—tears the family apart. Carpenter’s mother packs the girls and heads for the straight life in Washington State while George remains on the ranch, tied to the land and his vision of freedom.

In Gone Feral, Carpenter—now a grown woman leading an untraditional life, not unlike her parents’, raising livestock and growing vegetables in the city—finds herself contemplating a family of her own. Before that can happen, she knows she has to return to Idaho to discover why her father chose this life of solitude. She quickly finds that George is not living the principled, romantic life she imagined, and the truth is more com-plicated—and dangerous—than anything she suspected. As she comes to know the real George, Carpenter looks to her own life and comes to recognize her father’s legacy in their shared love of animals, of nature, and of the written word; their dangerous stubbornness and isolating independence. Finally, Gone Feral sees the birth of Carpenter’s own daughter, an experience that teaches that a parent’s love is itself a wild thing: unknowable, fierce, and ever changing. In reckoning with her past, Carpenter clears the road to her future.

Raw, funny, unsentimental, alive with unforgettable characters and pitch-perfect dialogue, Gone Feral marks Carpenter’s transformative passage from daughter to mother, a wry and rough tale of life lived on the margins and redemption between generations.

224 pages, Hardcover

First published June 12, 2014

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Novella Carpenter

9 books108 followers
Novella Carpenter grew up in rural Idaho and Washington State. She majored in biology and English at the University of Washington in Seattle. While attending Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, she studied under Michael Pollan for two years. Her urban farm began with a few chickens, then some bees, until she had a full-blown farm near downtown Oakland.

Author photo courtesy of author website.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
63 (14%)
4 stars
162 (36%)
3 stars
149 (34%)
2 stars
49 (11%)
1 star
15 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 98 reviews
Profile Image for Athena.
240 reviews40 followers
January 30, 2016
By the second chapter of this book Carpenter has drunk her Lapsang Souchou tea, coyly described what seems a deliberately marginal existence, mentions her (badly kept*) milk goats and managed to mix in a little bit about her mild fretting over her then-missing Dad. She minimizes the 100-hour effort his local PD put into a search for him and mock-chides herself for imagining them spending part of that time drinking coffee and eating donuts. She's just that cool.

Her writing effortlessly pushes every single snark button I have in my brain.

Carpenter claims she's from a small Pacific Northwest town but her blitheness surrounding a search-and-rescue operation is that of an uncaring, self-cocooned urbanite. Even after hearing from her Dad, who'd gone out of state, she says nothing about making sure those looking for him knew he was ok. Oh, la! It's just a missing persons search! No big deal.

I made it to the second chapter but couldn't take any more of her writing. I don't like her, don't care about her relationship to her father and haven't the patience to wade through her pretense; she's just another author making a profit off issues everyone has had with their parents since we swung down out of the trees.

I'm clearly not cool enough to visit this person's reality: I hope she stays in Oakland or Seattle or whichever currently 'In' Western big city is drawing the Clark Kent glasses-wearing, cooler-than-thou hipsters. Anywhere but Oregon, our quota of hipsters is already over-filled.

She drinks expensive tea but maintains a "rickety" goat house: what a careless farmer! In the first chapter she's cruising around on her bicycle looking for "downed limbs" to feed her milk goats & ends up pruning someone's damaged tree. That's called trespass & stealing; some unkempt person on a bike pulls up & starts snipping on my trees we're gonna have words & maybe a visit with the cops. I work hard on my trees, I know how to prune them & I also know if they're sprayed or not. If she buys Felco pruners (we're supposed to be impressed by the brand, btw) then why the hell is she feeding her goats random crap she 'finds' alongside the road? Just because they can eat random mystery snippings doesn't mean that they should.
Profile Image for Jessica.
992 reviews15 followers
August 20, 2014
My Amazon Vine review: Novella Carpenter and I should really be friends - we seem to believe in the same things and have the same hobbies. But I don't like her. At all. And I didn't really care for her book either. I have no idea why this got published. It's not particularly insightful or well-written. There's no story, per se. The attitude is quite self-centered.

I am hesitant (a little) to tell you how uninteresting and mundane this book is because obviously the author feels she has experienced something no one else has and she deserves all that she has learned/gained from those experiences. Yet I'm here to tell you - you have had every experience in this book, and, most likely, more so. Whether this is a fault of the conveyance of the story, or the fact that the author really does think her stereotypical hippie upbringing was somehow different is unclear.

I really wanted to enjoy this (much like I wanted to enjoy her first book,Farm City) but the end result is that I'm just not a Novella Carpenter fan.
Profile Image for Catherine.
663 reviews3 followers
November 12, 2014
I really liked Carpenter’s first book, “Farm City.” This book focuses primarily on her reclusive father, but also highlights her parent’s marriage, and Carpenter’s lifetime struggle trying to understand her dad’s erratic behavior and what caused his abandonment of the family. She makes several attempts at reconciliation with him.

A friend of her father’s writes to her about her father, “He was like a butterfly, here today, gone tomorrow type of guy. I read once—a friend is one who overlooks your broken fence and admires the flowers in your garden. He overlooked my faults and I overlooked his.” Novella, as his daughter, has a harder time forgiving the past, letting go of expectations of what she thought her father-daughter relationship should be, and figure out how to give up romanticizing what she wanted and accept what little her father was capable of giving.

She comes to understand that wanting to know where we come from is universal and important in trying to make sense of our own lives, and that becoming a parent herself was the motivation in continuing to pursue her father.

Well written and engaging. I read this book over two days. Whatever her next book is about, I want to read it.
Profile Image for Story Circle Book Reviews.
636 reviews61 followers
May 16, 2014
"The need to understand where we came from is universal," Novella Carpenter proclaims in her memoir, Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad Through the Wild. Reading her saga, perhaps we come a little closer to understanding the impact on us all of the 1960s counter-cultural back-to-the-land movement and the complex intricacies of parent/child relationships.

Gone Feral opens like a good mystery with attention-grabbing suspense. Not only was I pulled into the narrative, I became immersed in the author's joy of authentic living, down-to-earth, close to nature. As a second-generation feral child, Carpenter seemed to appreciate her unconventional upbringing in "voluntary poverty" in the wilds of Idaho. She certainly appeared to follow in her parents' footsteps when she described her life raising goats on an urban farm.

Her journey became an actual and metaphorical manhunt, when she received the news that her unconventional father "went missing" from his remote Idaho community. This event triggered a desperate need in her to renew a relationship that had been dormant many years. She was aching to know why her father deserted her. Also, she was thinking about becoming a mother herself, which added to her desire to track him down.

As a child, her life on the land in Idaho had abruptly ended when her mother left her father. After leaving the mountains, she and her sister were raised by her mother, but with very little contact with her father. Though he had remained in the same isolated community in rural Idaho over the years, contact with him remained elusive. At one moment, while pursuing her father, Carpenter recognized, "I've been trying to get my dad's phone number my whole life."

She does such a good job of story-telling, I couldn't help but feel shattered, too, as she came to understand that she held a romanticized idea of this man, who had decided to remain outside of mainstream America his entire life. She discovers that his service in the Army in Korea, along with his early family history, may have contributed to mental health issues that were more easily masked as eccentricities in the glory days of the hippies. The potential consequences of her children inheriting his mental health problems was a sobering realization, once she got to know her father better.

Carpenter's writing is engaging as she reflects on life cycles from child to adult and the legacies we leave and receive. When she has her own child, the story has come full circle and her empathy grows for the way her father must have felt holding her as an infant. Possibly the greatest understanding she gains is the magnitude of the question she ponders, "What are you after you've lost everything you loved?"

Novella Carpenter's quest results in her learning as much about herself as her father. The apparent gift from this man to his daughter was the cultivation of a capacity to learn and love, and that will surely be passed along to his granddaughter.

by Martha Meacham
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
Profile Image for Kate Mcglashan.
195 reviews1 follower
August 6, 2014
I read this book because I'm from Orofino, Idaho, born nine months before the author. She perfectly depicted our tiny town in the deep woods, making it a nuanced character unto itself. This book has so much to recommend it: straightforwardness, sense of humor, and good pacing (unusual in memoir). Few others will have their homesickness assuaged by this book but I think most people would enjoy it.
Profile Image for Scottsdale Public Library.
3,171 reviews201 followers
May 11, 2017
Novella Carpenter is the author of one of my favorite all time books, Farm City (see Goodreads review!) so I was surprised I had not yet come across her book, Gone Feral, a story about finding and tracking down her father. A slower, more personal read, we glimpse Carpenter’s early years gaining insight on how she was almost destined to one day write Farm City fueled by her predisposition to the living off the land lifestyle, even if in an urban setting. Initially setting off to reconcile a lifetime of on and off estrangement with her father, she ends up embarking on a journey of a personal level of letting go and acceptance. Rummaging in her parent’s past before she makes the life-changing plunge into parenthood, she discovers a truth about her father that shatters her almost mythological romantic notions of his life. By the end, Carpenter is healed from old anger and is ready to embrace motherhood with a new understanding of family and love. - Lisanne E.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
685 reviews6 followers
April 18, 2015
I enjoyed this book about a young woman looking for her elusive father. I identified with it on a psychological level, as someone whose father was there, but just as elusive. It was also an interesting look at a subculture of Idaho hippies and the dreams they started with and the elusiveness of those dreams.
Profile Image for Tori.
689 reviews11 followers
June 26, 2018
Well, I hadn't planned on reading this book, but a friend loaned it to me, and it was about Idaho, and it wasn't too long......so I thought, why not? It was actually better than I expected! It's interesting how sometimes a book might not be great, but it gets you opening your thoughts to different types of life experiences, as did this one for me.

Novella Carpenter grew up with hippie parents on a remote Idaho farm. Her parents divorced early on, and her dad became a stranger to her. Her growing up years were very different from mine - as are her adult years, living in Oakland, making do with few material possessions and few "luxuries", and in a questionable neighborhood. This book kind of details her quest to find her "missing" father. What she ends up finding, besides her father, is a better understanding of who she is and why she is the person she is. And maybe more compassion for a lost soul.
Probably my favorite line in the book is this, about an experience in her early 20's: "Meanwhile I wrote letters to friends, never mentioning my problems, keeping it breezy and romantic sounding. Now that I thought of it, they were akin to my dad's postcards to me. I hoped someone might read between the lines and figure out that I needed saving."

Profile Image for Philena.
30 reviews
June 23, 2014
I received an advance copy of this book through a Goodreads give away.

When I read the description of this book, I was expecting the entire book to be about a young woman trying to find her father. That is not what this book is.

Novella's father sends her an email alerting her to his whereabouts and the fact that he is doing well within the first two chapters. The rest of the book is about Novella trying to find herself.

When a woman decides to become a mother, her outlook on life changes. Novella, due to her experiences with raising goats on her small, urban hobby farm, decides that the most important part of procreation is breeding lines. She takes this to mean that she must discover as much about her own parents as she can in order to determine what heritable traits she may be passing on to her own offspring.

The story that ensues is a collection of memories, seemingly out of order, that come back to Novella while she is on her journey to "save" her back woods, hill-billy, aged hippy father.

Revisiting her own childhood memories as she gets to know her family history brings Novella to a realization that the things we believe as children are not necessarily the truth we may discover as adults.

I mostly enjoyed this book of personal enlightenment because it was an easy read that maintained my interest with similarities to my own past and changes that, it seems, every woman deals with when entering motherhood.

The message isn't overly powerful and the order of the stories seem to jump back and forth uncomfortably at times. There were quite a few minor grammatical errors that were hopefully found and fixed before the book's release in it's final copy.

Finally, I think the author could have gone into more detail with regards to her personal thoughts, feelings, and emotions during the especially poignant memories. As I read this book, the voice in my head just kept trucking along at the same pace the entire time. Novella never seemed to get excited or upset about anything in the book and it really just felt like she was writing about someone she had never met with a constant detachment. It didn't really feel personal enough.

With a bit of work, it would have been an excellent book with a great storyline filled with self discovery. A well earned three stars.
405 reviews1 follower
October 25, 2014
I feel a little mislead by the title and reviews I'd read about this book. Novella Carpenter doesn't so much go on an actual trek to find her "lost" father as much as decide to try to better understand his choices and determine whether she might either pass on defective genetic material to her as not yet conceived baby, or repeat his pattern herself. There is a short period of time early in the book when her father is reported missing, but by the time she actually decides to try to see him again, he'd long been found. She seems to have a romantic idealism about her "feral" upbringing, using that particular word repeatedly throughout the memoir, but there is nothing romantic or ideal about her situation. She grows up in chosen poverty, scavenging for food, sometimes homeless, with little supervision, guidance, or discipline. If I had a child in my classroom living like this, I'd call Child Protective Services. Novella's mother was a little more stable than her father, but because she also was poor and working, she struggled to watch her children after leaving their father. Their homes often had no heat or running water. The parents were bright and educated, but retained a 1960's philosophy and lifestyle long after that decade ended, choosing to live on the edge of society. Based on the conversations between Novella and her father, and his documented behaviors, it appears he is mentally ill. Novella seems to want to attribute this to post traumatic stress from the time when he served in Korea, but that seems like a stretch to me. More likely is a slow separation from reality and into paranoia. By the end of the book, he appears to be in the early stages of dementia. This was a very sad tale, and I was left a little depressed by the hopelessness of the situation.
130 reviews
February 2, 2019
I bought this book at the dollar store so I could have something to read on an airplane flight. It was cheaper than a magazine and had more pages.

I found myself looking at the picture of the author at the back of the book multiple times. She seemed like someone I should know. Obviously punk rock, but didn't really admit to it in the book, traveled, dropped out of university, moved to Oakland where she started an urban farm in a squatted empty lot. She has a lot of crap and a crusty, calm mechanic boyfriend. She decides she needs to get to know her estranged father before she has a child.

An easy read, I didn't find it as disturbing as others potentially could. Her father is crazy, of course. She is too. So is her sister. They are all in differing stages of insanity.

In getting to know her father, she gets to know herself. The journey is what counts and the devil is in the details. It is a universal story and I found her particular journey a bit tiring. She was able to buy the plot of land in Oakland for $25k when Oakland was still considered (in her words) "the wild west." She had an unfortunate stint with poverty, homelessness and mental illness, but luckily her privilege, middle class friends and family saved her. It was a memoir, so of course it was self absorbed, but it still grated on my nerves due to the unfortunate space where ignorance meets racism and classism.

Her father taught her that history does not repeat, it rhymes, and I have found myself thinking about this metaphor long after I finished the book. I think this metaphor was worth the dollar, but the book wasn't worth much more.
Profile Image for Annie.
213 reviews2 followers
July 30, 2014
After reading Novella Carpenter's Farm City about her adventures in urban farming, I looked at her website and found she had just published a new book. Gone Feral is a more personal memoir about her upbringing and relationship with her father, along with her own quest to become a mother. Carpenter's parents were "back-to-the-land hippies" who bought a piece of land in Idaho and tried to survive off the grid. Ultimately, their marriage fell apart and their father "went feral" while their mother raised them in the city. Carpenter saw very little of her unpredictable father during her childhood and only occasionally kept touch as an adult. When she receives word that her father is missing, she panics and begins to question why she has never known him and whether she will make a good mother if she is able to get pregnant. Her father turns up quickly and Carpenter resolves that she will get to know him while she has time. However, this turns out to be easier said than done as her father is flaky at best, and possibly truly mentally unsound. I found this book compelling but I didn't really enjoy it as much as Farm City. Perhaps because it is a true story, there is a certain lack of resolution that I found frustrating, especially regarding her father, but I suppose that is the nature of memoir!
Profile Image for Nancy Eister.
67 reviews
March 15, 2017
Something draws me to Novella Carpenter. Though I'm not really drawn to raising goats and rabbits in urban industrial Oakland, I was fascinated by her first ( to me) book, Farm City. And though I wasn't raised in the backwoods by hippie parents, I was nearly a hippie parent myself,just younger by several years and more wary. Not all of us become parents, but we are all children, and the quest to understand what our parents were really like at our age, how they made the decisions they did, what formed us, is universal. Novella's childhood was unusual, though maybe not for the time. As she seeks to become a mother, she also tries to understand the mystery that is her dad. I like the way she tells the story, interweaving her own life with that of her father, interspersing details of nature and the animals she raises to illustrate her observations. Novella is a person I would probably never get to know, and I am glad I got to know her through her writing. I appreciate her spare, vivid prose and admire her ability to tell an honest, unflattering and true story. She hits on our need to romanticize and become disillusioned with our parents, all the while yearning romantically to do a better job with our own offspring. I like this woman and her writing. Maybe it's because of her name - Novella.
Profile Image for Mimi.
348 reviews5 followers
August 13, 2014
In this memoir, Novella Carpenter and her partner are contemplating having a baby. Before she takes the leap to parenthood though, Novella needs to make peace with her feelings about her mainly absent father. Growing up, she and her sister were raised by their parents, off the grid, in remote Idaho. Eventually this hard existence becomes too difficult for Novella's mom and she and her husband divorcedand she takes the girls and moves to California. From that point on Novella rarely sees or corresponds with her father. She always imagines him as living a wild, pioneer kind of life. In her late 30's, as she ponders becoming a mother, she returns to Idaho to get to know her dad better. What she finds though, isn't a romantic mountain man living off the land but a down and out man selling scrap left from large logging operations and living in a small, filthy home. You will have to read this book yourself to see if she does indeed become a mother and if she and her father form a relationship. This book made me think a lot about my own upbringing and how differently people perceive life depending on the circumstances in which they were raised
Profile Image for Ann.
511 reviews11 followers
July 7, 2014
Carpenter tries to find her father, who left the family when she was a kid. It's an interesting journey b/c she figures out that even though she doesn't like a lot of what her father is or does, she (and her sister) have inherited many of his quirks. She tells the story with a lot of her characteristic humor, and she ostensibly says she's looking for her Dad b/c she believes in genetics--and she's about to do what she has sworn she would not do--become a "breeder" herself. But I feel like her search is about something more primal and fundamental as her father comes to represent the off the grid, foraging, feral and ethical lifestyle she's tried to create on her farm in Oakland. Unfortunately, once she figures out what's under the surface of her father's life, she realizes his life style is less about ethics and more about an inability to fit into "civilized" culture. I am really glad she explored these complex topics. I read this very quickly by the way, so think it's a fast, but lovely, read.
73 reviews4 followers
June 17, 2014
Note: I won this book through First Reads (hope I did that right)

I thought that this book was wonderful. It raised a lot of questions on how much our genes play a part in who we become. Is it really nurture versus nature? How much is bred into us?

The story of her going to find her father and repairing a damaged relationship can be found in multiple father/daughter relationships around the world - even those that weren't as as dysfunctional.

The fear that Novella feels for her father jumps off the page faster the you can read the words. It is the age old problem of children realizing that their parents are mortal beings - and how their children grow and deal with it.

I highly recommend this book to people of all ages - whether you are a parent or not - all of us are children of someone - even if our parents weren't always around.

What a fantastic book to win for the first time.
Profile Image for Ariel.
496 reviews18 followers
August 9, 2014
So, it's hard for me to know how to feel about this book. I wouldn't call it amazing, the writing was more mediocre than anything. I would venture to guess that, for most people, the story would also feel a little "meh." Yet, though this paints a MUCH more extreme version than I certainly ever knew, so many of the themes in this book reflect my own life and childhood back at me. How many of us were raised this way - free-range children of idealists trying to make it work? The parallels are very broad, but there is something SO familiar about this. I felt like despite it's flaws, this book comes from a place of someone who "gets" it. For that, I really connected with this book.
Profile Image for Jesse.
737 reviews6 followers
May 20, 2018
Many parts of this book were engaging and complex and endearing, but I couldn’t get over the way the author treats and ultimately discards her animals.
Profile Image for Erica.
123 reviews1 follower
September 7, 2016
I almost skipped it after reading the first chapter--the writing was pretty rough. But I'm glad I continued reading it; her story is fascinating!
Profile Image for Jessica Brown.
93 reviews5 followers
June 12, 2018
Novella tells her truly inspiring, heartfelt story based as an open diary filled with memories and truths. It all starts when she receives a voicemail from her mother telling her that her father has gone missing, the man she hasn't seen in 20 years. A hunt begins as she has her mind set on finding him, trying to make up for lost years with revisiting the birthplace of her home town and seeking to replenish old memories. In addition, she has a longing to find her father to tell him how she is expecting to become a mother and wants him to stay in the picture as a grandfather and stop running away from his family. But from what she can recollect is that her father is just a wild mountain man who loves the forest and takes old trees to make guitars as a passion while he wants to stay secluded without a care. Novella soon comes to realize in finding him that her father is aging and becoming senile. With the help of her beloved husband, her sister and a good old friend of her father's, including the town, they will try their best to keep the good memories of him alive by pushing him out of his stubbornness of wanting to be alone by asking dangerously complicated and harsh to thrash out questions expecting to find answers about why he chose to live in solitude throughout her and her sister's life. Seeming as though playing a game of hide and seek, Novella takes you back and forth in personal sparkling moments throughout her aging journey of life with a connection that we can all relate to and learn from in finding ourselves.
Profile Image for Hayley DeRoche.
Author 1 book52 followers
January 29, 2020
I saw this book and immediately grabbed it from the library -- a hunt for a missing person while trying to make sense of their life, from a woman's perspective! Cool. However, the "missing person" angle quickly resolves itself with no real effort on the part of the author, and then the rest of the book was a self-indulgent search for the Meaning behind a person's personality and choices as she dithers on whether she should become a parent. It felt self-important and just...unnecessary as far as a story worth sharing beyond the Thanksgiving table is concerned.
21 reviews
June 26, 2020
I really appreciate the author's raw, straightforward style of writing. Her story, her relationship with her father, really moved me. She gives us great insight into her captivating, complex and crazy family dynamic. Our parents teach us resilience and we resent them for it, but with an open and willing heart, we also learn compassion.
Profile Image for Skyler.
396 reviews
January 11, 2019
I can only imagine being a memoirist and reading reviews that say the reader doesn't like you as a person. So I must say that Novella Carpenter's memoirs make me like her so much that I'd love to be her friend and neighbor.
217 reviews
April 25, 2019
She tries to connect with her long-absent and half-crazy father before having her own child.
Profile Image for Susan Beecher.
1,089 reviews8 followers
June 20, 2020
A completely engaging memoir. Novella Carpenter is a good writer. This is as much about her life and her trying to come to terms with her unusual father. Honest and wel-written. Recommend.
Profile Image for Steve Chilton.
Author 10 books16 followers
November 18, 2019
All families are different, and how you were raised shapes you from your childhood. I found this a little depressing though, as the sought for reconciliation didn't seem to have really happened by the end. The book cover suggested that he had gone feral wasn't really the truth of the matter either.
Profile Image for Wanda.
255 reviews10 followers
July 23, 2016
I received a copy of Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad Through the Wild compliments of Goodreads Firstreads Giveaway and appreciated the opportunity.

I will start by saying that I raced through this memoir in one sitting. It quickly captured my attention and pulled me in! I was enthralled by author Novella Carpenter and her personal quest to find anwers about her father, George Carpenter, who had been living "off-the-grid" for a majority of her life. Novella and her sister, Riana did not have a conventional upbringing. Their parents, Pat and George, had met in the late 60's in Mexico, during a time of free love and "hippie" lifestyles. They began their family life on a ranch in Orofino, Idaho, working the land, raising animals and vegetable crops, aspiring to be self-sufficient and at peace from greater society. The marriage quickly ended, and the girls had limited contact with their father thereafter. Over the years, some minimal attempts were made to re-kindle a relationship with their father. He prefered a life of solitude and avoided his daughter's moderate attempts to share a meaningful relationship. Novella's mother contacted her in 2009 with information that her father was listed as a missing person by the local authorities. He was soon to be found, although his disappearance sparked renewed interest with more questions, more heart-ache. Novella explores her father's past, yearning to discover her own genetics, who was this man whose personality traits she possesses, despite his strong absence in her life.

This memoir is both heart-wrenching and heart-warming. The author does not hold back in sharing her reality, her tragedy and her pain. The search for parental love, the complexity of relationships, the lesson of acceptance. Novella's describes every scene of her past with the right amount of detail, giving a solid glimpse into her memories and perceptions. It is easy for the reader to feel present along with Novella as she confronts her past journeys and discovers harsh and hurtful realities. I commend the author for allowing us to walk alonside her on this path in seeking truth. I can only imagine how cathartic and it was for Novella Carpenter to write these chapters of her life story. I enjoyed the photos throughout the memoir, it added deeper awareness. I was fascinated by learning more about this family's skills in living as one with nature, working the land and their level of self-sufficiency. I share my 4 star rating and highly recommend.
Profile Image for Martha.
355 reviews34 followers
September 15, 2015
I picked up this book because so many things about it reminded me of my own relationship with my dad, and his relationship with the wilderness: the author struggles to connect with her father, who in turn struggles to connect with people in general, preferring to live the life of a mountain man in the Idaho wilds. Once I dove into the book, I realized that the resemblance is much less pronounced than I first thought--my own dad doesn't live in a ramshackle cabin in the middle of nowhere, like George Carpenter; we're not estranged, even if we do struggle to connect sometimes; my parents are still happily married--but that desire to live off the land somewhere far away from commercial trappings and the rat race looks pretty familiar.

It also helps that the book is largely set in and around Orofino, Idaho, a place I know fairly well from years trekking through the Panhandle on camping trips and to visit relatives. I understand the harsh Idaho winters, the idea of living in a town where you only get your e-mail at the local library, and the reality of scraping together an existence in such an unforgiving place. Carpenter describes the world of rural Idaho and the Clearwater River in lively color.

I guess what knocked off a star was that I didn't connect to Carpenter's burning desire to have a family. At times the author's need to have a child seemed to get in the way of the main story: her goal of reconnecting with her estranged father.

Also, I had trouble identifying the super-hippie lifestyle she pursued through her twenties and thirties; maybe my hippie roots run shallow, but I feel happy meshing natural teas and a recycling program with life in a city apartment. I don't have a farm, nor have I ever decided to build an outhouse in my backyard. Her attempts to capture her parents' hippie adventures just didn't "click" with me as a reader, though I can't quite put my finger on why. It's nice to see how her own lifestyle starts to mirror that of her dad's, despite their estrangement, but I guess in the end it turned into another distracting tangent that left me feeling like she couldn't decide if she was writing her own memoir or writing about her relationship with her dad, and in the end settled for a hybrid of the two.

Between those two stories and the baby-making plot, the book sometimes seemed to wander in different directions, like it wasn't sure where it was going or how it should end. It was still a good book, though--I devoured it in one sitting.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 98 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.