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The Dark Heart of Every Wild Thing

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  110 ratings  ·  24 reviews
Deep in the mountains of British Columbia, across an unforgiving landscape, one man’s pursuit of a fabled mountain lion leads him into the furthest reaches of himself. As he struggles to confront the wilderness surrounding him—from the baying hounds to the relentless northern snows—he journeys into his own haunted memories: a life of wild horses and ballet, fishing skiffs ...more
Paperback, First, 272 pages
Published September 1st 2020 by Platypus Press
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Average rating 4.15  · 
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Laura Rinaldi
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing

What happened to me reading this novel was a magical experience I felt I had been missing — I feel we might all be missing in this global trauma... bringing ourselves to embrace places of tragic and painful reality, truly looking into ourselves, deepening the waters of our spirit and encountering the ghosts the man in this novel does. Fasano’s poetry is inseparable from him — that is evident here. His voice is true and wise and stable and consistent amongst his other works. As a first novel, I f
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: publisher-sent
A father and his nine-year-old son trek into the high mountains to hunt a mountain lion. Generations have hunted the lion and failed. The father had sworn to bring one home.

They depart in late in autumn when the snow shows the lion's tracks. The father patiently teaches the child. At night the boy still dreams of his mother who died in an accident several years before.

Fasano creates a world that can be experienced with all the senses, the iron smell of blood and woodsmoke ingrained in a child's
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Joseph Fasano was my creative writing professor at Columbia and I've been so looking forward to this book. You can definitely tell from the prose that he's a poet, as well, and to me that's one of the strengths of the meditative / reflective passages. My favorite scene (and no I won't give away what happens) is the end. It's like the whole novel builds to this act that can only be described as an act of grace. It's triumphant. I recommend this to all. ...more
Catherine Vialdo
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fasano is my new favorite writer. I usually prefer short stories to novels, and the novelists I love are pretty different from one another--Virginia Woolf, Cormac McCarthy, Michael Ontaatje, Willa Cather, Nabokov--but I think what those writers have in common is the innovative way they use language, breathing life into their characters with the idiosyncracies of their dialogue, creating a world with the music of the language itself. The title of this novel alone prepared you for the ferocious be ...more
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Poets who turn their hands to fiction have done so with mixed results. Most recently, Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous was a tremendous success. Then, of course, there are the classics: Plath's The Bell Jar, James Dickey's Deliverance, and so on. Sometimes the results are disastrous (just think of Berryman's Recovery, all the more poignant in being an unfinished wreck of a book because of its subject matter and the fate of its author). I was won over by this one. I'd read mixed revi ...more
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a book I took my time with, and I am so glad I did. Between the covers of this novel is a world of grief and pain—one might even say these are the main themes—but, I would venture to say that this is, above all, a story of perseverance and hope. To spend time within this world is to open yourself to the depths of the human heart.

The protagonist, a man hardened by loss and the brutality of nature, navigates the harsh weather and terrain of British Columbia, hunting what he calls "the mind
Kris Nystrom
Feb 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is what happens when a poet writes a novel. Clean, evocative language whispering things not yet named until the moment they’re read.
Ben Sack
Jul 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's so rare to find a writer who can tell a captivating story in beautiful prose, and Fasano is that writer. I've been a fan of his poetry for years, and this novel just blew me away. I hope to read more from him, and I hope to see this book made into a film. I can imagine the incredible imagery, landscapes, and human drama of it playing out on the screen. This is a must-read. ...more
Judy Alsworth
Jul 20, 2020 rated it it was ok
Another Canadian setting for this author (previously read his poem on Vince Li). This fails to hit the mark however as the overwrought imagery and poetic intonation becomes cloying and detracts from the narrative. Some definite beautiful passages, but overall not an enjoyable story -- which is why I chose a novel to read an not a poem.
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
This isn't what I would describe as the "typical" novel for my bookshelf, but that's probably what I loved about it most. The love story between the two main characters is so intense and gentle. And the dialogue between the father and son on their quest is really special, raw and tender. It's definitely a work of "literary fiction," in that it cares about both style and substance and sees them as inseparable. The only thing I wished for was more about the narrator's time in the Caribbean, but I ...more
Aug 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Long-time reader of Fasano's poetry. I was excited about him writing fiction when I heard about this book a few months ago. I read it in one sitting and am still feeling changed by what I read. I'm still processing it, but I know I will read it again, especially the flashback passages, which somehow made me feel both the tragedy and the beauty of the characters' relationship. I have a few favorite quotes so far, but one that particularly stands out is: "When you love the dead in someone, you're ...more
Ina Halsor
This book left me so frustrated, I really wanted to love it and enjoy the prose but couldn’t find a story to hang onto. I ended up skimming sections, then stopping at parts in the book - finding a sequence that was a dream, a hallucination or a memory - it was hard to tell if the book wasn’t just one long dreamlike text based in the wilderness.
I would very much like to get back to this book, I’d like to give it another go when I’m perhaps in a different mindset. I can tell there’s a treasure to
Sep 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an outstanding work of literary fiction. In a world that would reduce us to easy moral categories--good and evil, this or that--this novel reminds us that we're all complex, stumbling creatures trying to find our way, trying to love and be loved, to redeem and be redeemed. My reading group recommended this to me because of my interest in philosophy, and I think they were right that this book has some profound reflections in it, but, to me, one of its virtues is that those reflections are ...more
Aug 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved it. This novel is about tenderness and forgiveness as much as it's about the brutality of what we do to others and ourselves. The main character's relationship with his father is one of the things that interested me the most, even though it goes on mostly in the background of the story. That's how life is, isn't it: we're shaped by the things we barely see. For its sweeping scale and tender intimacy, I give this a resounding 5 stars. The ending left me breathless. ...more
Jul 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
What I love about this book is that it reads like a dream that becomes suddenly real. The writing is stunning, and I found myself pulled into both the love story and the narrative with the lion. It's hard to categorize this book, which, to me, is refreshing. The narrator is complex, living a story that slowly makes him realize his shortcomings, and that steadily makes us realize our own. Transformative. ...more
Chloe Garcia
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I hadn't read Fasano's poetry before reading his novel, but a friend recommended it to me and i'm glad she did. I spend a lot of time in nature and this book has an incredible atmosphere, like a world I didn't want to leave. The story and language are heartbreakingly beautiful, and the ending...just wow. Didn't see that coming. ...more
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When I saw a Kirkus review that called this "Ahab-like", I had to have a look, Melville being my favorite writer. The comparison is really more about the obsessive quest of the main character, not so much the style, which is poetic but very much its own thing. The writing and story are extraordinary. I'm recommending this to my book group. ...more
Mar 07, 2021 rated it it was ok
Dnf at 200 pages, but close enough that I’m marking it read. Didn’t enjoy the cutting back and forth from mountain scenes to past relationship. Wilderness descriptions became monotonous at times. Got tired of how drawn out everything felt.
Oct 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This novel came to me at a time when I needed it most in my life, and I'm so grateful that it found me. I feel like at its heart this is a book about redemption, and we could all use that right now. Maybe always. 5 stars + ...more
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A triumph.
Nov 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fasano perfectly captures the spirit of the wilderness, and the miracles of tenderness that can happen in it. I cried at the end.
John Fay
Mar 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

A good story that reads like a prose poem.
This is a new author worth reading
I'll be looking for future books from this writer
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
One of my new favorite books. Fasano understands how to use silence.
Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was ok
Some of the descriptions of nature are quite powerful, and meditative, and beautiful. More than I can remember from any recent book, I had to go to the dictionary to look up so so many words, which I didn't mind. But the jumping back and forth from wilderness to the protagonist's relationship with his wife really killed the pace and power of the book for me. The vague ambiguity that Fasano uses to paint that relationship really irritated me. Oh well, it didn't quite work, but I'll certainly read ...more
Hannah Norris
rated it liked it
Oct 04, 2021
Paolo R
rated it it was amazing
May 22, 2022
rated it it was ok
Dec 06, 2021
Emilia Meyer
rated it really liked it
Aug 23, 2020
Jessica Hayes
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Aug 23, 2020
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Mar 09, 2021
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Joseph Fasano is the author of the novels The Swallows of Lunetto (Maudlin House, 2022) and The Dark Heart of Every Wild Thing (Platypus Press, 2020), which was named one of the "20 Best Small Press Books of 2020." His books of poetry include The Crossing (2018), Vincent (2015), Inheritance (2014), and Fugue for Other Hands (2013). His honors include the Cider Press Review Book Award, the Rattle P ...more

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“When a man has fury in his bones he can do wild things, some of them fiercer than what he is, and sometimes afterward he wakes to what he has done, and if the waking is graceful he can make it right with his atonement. But when a man has crossed past fury, silently and without his knowing, so that somewhere in the night he crosses over into the cold and shimmering country of indifference, the barren country where he looks up into the stars and knows only the cold fire of continuance, the pith of wintering in things, then he has come to a place where he himself is the wild thing that will undo him, and he is no more himself than the snow that will cover him in oblivion, and he blows through the land and his own bones like the snow itself, and wherever he drifts he is banished, and wherever he arrives he will never return, and wherever he travels, he is never there.” 1 likes
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