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Undiscovered Country

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  726 ratings  ·  144 reviews
Unaware that his life is about to change in ways he can't imagine, seventeen-year-old Jesse Matson ventures into the northern Minnesota woods with his father on a cold November afternoon. Perched on individual hunting stands a quarter-mile apart, they wait with their rifles for white-tailed deer. When the muffled crack of a gunshot rings out, Jesse unaccountably knows some ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 3rd 2008 by Little, Brown and Company (first published July 1st 2008)
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Average rating 3.63  · 
Rating details
 ·  726 ratings  ·  144 reviews

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J.K. Grice
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY is a beautiful interplay between characters in a frozen northern Minnesota town. This was an excellent read, and I've really come to enjoy Lin Enger's books. ...more
Jul 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
This suspenseful novel will draw you in and keep you up late at night. The narrative is as stark and unforgiving as the Northern Minnesota geography it inhabits. Told by a wounded teenage narrator, it touches on Hamlet and has that play's brooding atmosphere, but the story pulls away from the source material in its final pages and comes into its own. Jesse's voice haunts the reader and you wonder in the end whether this is a story about justice or an Old Testament style revenge. ...more
Kathryn in FL
This fast paced story is a riff on Hamlet. Jesse Matson and his father are deer hunting off a lake and Jesse discovers his father partly decapitated. The local sheriff is a lush and rules it a suicide but Jesse isn't buying it. Jesse thinks that his uncle (the brother to Dad) has had a hand. No one else seems to agree, not Jesse's Mom or anyone else with power.

Jesse is dogged in his pursuit of truth, then he gets two pieces of information from two sources that put things in perspective for him
melanie (lit*chick)
Apr 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
this ended up being a real page turner. a modern retelling of Hamlet, I thought I knew what would happen...but it remained a fresh story the whole way through. and i always appreciate a mature young man as narrator. it's a little higher than a 4 for me. ...more
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written, highly engaging read. Well worth your time.
Sep 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Although it is unfortunate that this book was published on the heels of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and both use Hamlet as a springboard to tell a modern story of murder/death and revenge, I found both books unique in the way that they handled the material.

In Undiscovered Country, set in northern Minnesota, Jesse is out in the woods with his father on the last day of hunting season. When he hears one shot ring out, he somehow knows something is wrong, then finds his father apparently dead by his
Sep 09, 2008 rated it liked it
This first novel is 2008's rather less well known retelling of the story of Hamlet (cough - Edgar Sawtelle - cough, cough). A boy goes on a hunting trip with his dad. His dad ends up shot to death. Suicide or murder? An uncle is the prime suspect.

Lin Enger has written a taut thriller that roams the bleak landscape of Minnesota in winter as well as the emotional interior landscape of a boy struggling with the truth of his father's death. But despite the great writing, the fact that the story is
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sienna by: Leif Enger
Shelves: read-2019
Four stars for the writing, still absorbing the story. Definitely enjoyed reading books so strongly located from two brothers. Some great brother insights in this story, like

I took his shoulders in my hands, looked as deeply into his eyes as he'd let me, and saw there, in large part, what my role in life was going to be for the next decade or so, until he grew up. I saw it with clarity -- and I was not mistaken.

& relationship insights, like

The fact is, both of us that night required exact
Sue  Wegloski
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
No ordinary story. No ordinary ending.
Marjorie Hakala
May 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
I would feel bad posting an "eh" review so early if this were Amazon, but do people really make buying decisions based on what strangers say on Goodreads?

I didn't love this. It's a retelling of Hamlet (more or less) set in northern Minnesota. I'm more than cool with Hamlet and with Minnesota (has the Guthrie already put those two ideas together at some point?). But this book basically gave up on the source material halfway through, and I got distracted by looking for it when it was gone ("wait,
Mar 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
The premise of the book drew my attention: a retelling of Hamlet in a northern Minnesota setting. The stark setting of a small town in the grip of winter cold is a suitable backdrop to a tale of revenge. Enger's descriptions of both characters and setting are powerful and evocative.
Several aspects of the novel bothered me, however. First, the insertions of characters' comments and analysis of the Shakespeare play were jarring. Second, the teenage narrator and his girlfriend come off as unrealis
Jul 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Yet another Minnesota author, the brother of Leif Enger. This story centered on a 17 year old boy who loved his father very much. One day while they were deer hunting, the boy finds his father shot dead. The coroner, doctor, minister,and family all accept the decision that it was a suicide, but the son refuses to do so. He is determined to prove himself right. Parts of the story probably suspend belief, and it certainly isn't a particularly happy story, but I enjoyed reading it. ...more
Nov 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
I had a hard time reading this book in the beginning because I think it's one that should be read quickly. I had to keep starting and stopping frequently and I just couldn't get into it. As soon as I had a few days to just READ...I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed the author's view on the immature feelings of a seventeen year old boy. Wrap up in a blanket because he describes some very cold and chilling events. ...more
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one who thought this was a Leif Enger book. I loved Leif's books; this one by Lin, not so much. For example, if you are going to write a modern retelling of "Hamlet", don't have your character point out to the reader how much his situation is like "Hamlet". The book was okay, but the ending felt stretched out. I just wanted it to end. (I do recommend Leif's books, though.) ...more
Sep 19, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Admittedly I didn't read the whole thing, it was becoming way overdue and so many more obviously appealing books kept piling in for me to read. But I did read the beginning, a few chapters in between to get the gist, and then the ending. Haunting, thoughtful writing here. ...more
Kathy Perschmann
Jul 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
This dark but beautifully written book is a Hamlet parable, much like Smiley's Thousand Acres.... ...more
Milly Halverson
Jul 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
great book that takes place in Minnesota, kept my attention.
Apr 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Pretty good. Read it on the heels of Edward Sawtelle. Same story, right Will? Oh, by the way, happy birthday, and you still Rock! (I liked your original version...)
Apr 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Is there such a thing as forgiveness, this side of the grave?”
TW: suicide, murder, depression, domestic and child abuse, violence against animals, graphic depictions of dead bodies, loss of a loved one, repeated slurs and negative talk about people with special needs

Undiscovered Country follows a teenager trying to come to terms with the death of his father, whom he found dead while hunting. The coroner says it’s a suicide, but Jesse can’t believe his father would leave his family. When his fa
Paul Thomas
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: character-dev
Very well written story taking place in Northern Minnesota. Beautiful imagery: "The clouds were low and gray, stuffed with snow, and I imagined the pointed tops of the pines ripping them open and spilling out flakes like down." Another favorite: "my uncle was right behind him, boots clapping neat little double beats on the floor."

And the story was engaging... if someone else hadn't written it, well, 400 years ago. While the synopsis on Goodreads describes it as a unique telling of Hamlet, I didn
Gail Richmond
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Susan Emmet
Dec 13, 2020 rated it liked it
As others have noted, this novel relies on parallels to Hamlet but they are announced too often, rather than implied or shown.
Fathers and sons, sons and uncles, sons and mothers, retribution, forgiveness, the inability to act, the need to craft a tight plan, the impact psychologically and physically of enacting a plan, the yearning for love (and its demands), the will to kill that which seems unforgivable, and living with the consequences of each decision link to Shakespeare.
Enger captures sett
Apr 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Our challenge book for December. Dad skipped out on this one (after I skipped out on November). 🙂

I liked it but didn’t entirely love it.

Liked the MN winter setting. Liked the kid and his inner thoughts. Found some of the mom / kid stuff handled a bit weird. Liked the little brother stuff. Hated the girlfriend’s dad storyline and found it a bit distracting. Some unexpected twists. I liked it better at the beginning than the end.

I would be interested in reading what Enger does next.

Now all I can t
Griff Splan
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a really interesting book that was very powerful, and showed the effects of loss and revenge. Throughout the story it seems that the main character, Jesse, is torn apart by his need for revenge in order to find closure. Undiscovered Country does a great job of describing to the reader the inner conflict Jesse is going through. The ending is quite dramatic, and brings the story to a close you expect from quite early on in the story. I highly recommend this book for those of you who are l ...more
Martha Hays
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I thought this book was a captivating mystery that kept me guessing what would happen next. The book made it so that I was pretty sure of what was going to happen but then something would happen to change my mind. It really showed the internal struggle that people have when they lose someone. However, you could see that the loss affected the characters differently. Because of this I could empathize with Jesse and see how hard life can be without someone you love. I can also see his motivation of ...more
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
I read this for a book club, or I probably wouldn't have finished it. A boy’s father is killed on a hunting trip and the death is ruled an accident. Jesse goes back to look for more evidence and the ghost of his father (or maybe it’s Jesse’s imagination) appears and reports he’d been killed by Jesse’s uncle. This is a downer of a book, with a kind of wobbly view of characterization and plot. It attempts to be a modern rewrite of Hamlet, but the prose is pedestrian and the inability of the actors ...more
Sep 03, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can't tell if the author has deliberately chosen to make the narrator a horrible, sexist, ageist person, or if that's just how the author describes things, and I can't tell if the author is deliberately ham-fisted in connecting this story with Hamlet, but in the end I'm not sure it matters. A 17 year old misogynist sociopath bumbles around after his father is murdered by his uncle. An oddly under-researched and mostly meaningless set of comments about the protagonist's musical talent, and that ...more
Ben Adams
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book as an assignment for English, alongside reading Titus Andronicus in class. I have to say, it was a great help in better understanding Titus, and really Shakespeare in general. The fact that it is a modern retelling of Hamlet helps one see the effects that Shakespeare had on today, especially the themes he was trying to convey, through a new, more familiar perspective. Well done Lin Enger, you've accomplished a difficult feat, and have helped many and left an impact on anyone who ...more
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY is told entirely from the perspective of Jesse, a 27-year-old English teacher recounting a life experience 10 years previous: the suicide of his father. Jesse discovers his father dead after an evening hunting excursion and though it appears to be a suicide, he’s unwilling to let it go. Convinced his father was killed, Jesse embarks on a journey to discover the truth and bring his father’s murderer to justice.

Much of the story reads in-the-moment, but at times, there
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked this book more and more as I was reading it. I thought I'd recognized the author but couldn't place him. Then Lin mentions his brother, Lief, in the acknowledgements. Yes, I think I read Peace Like a River, but it must have been before I joined Goodreads. Now I need to read that again to be sure. Lin Enger is a talented writer in his own right but I'm always interested in writer's who are related ...more
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Lin Enger has published two previous novels, Undiscovered Country and The High Divide, a finalist for awards from the Midwest Booksellers Association, the Society of Midland Authors, and Reading the West. His stories have been published in literary journals such as Glimmer Train, Ascent, and American Fiction. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he has received a James Michener Award, a Minne ...more

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