Book Review: Out of the Woods by Lynn Darling

Out of the Woods by Lynn DarlingOut of the Woods: What it is about

From the publishers: “When her college-bound daughter leaves home, Lynn Darling, widowed over a decade earlier, finds herself alone—and utterly lost, with no idea of what she wants or even who she is. Searching for answers, she leaves New York for the solitary woods of Vermont. Removed from the familiar, cocooned in the natural world, her only companions a new dog and a compass, she hopes to develop a sense of direction—both in the woods and in her life.

Hiking unmapped trails, Darling meditates on the milestones of her past; as she adapts to her new surroundings, she uses the knowledge she’s gained to chart her future. And when an unexpected setback nearly derails her newfound balance, she is able to draw upon her newfound skills to find her bearings and stay the course.“

Out of the Woods: What I thought

This book begins with the author moving into an isolated cottage in the woods. At the end of the book, she’s moved out again. In the time in between, she’s a bit lost. She has been a widow for years and her daughter has gone to college. To start over again, she moves to the cottage that is at the end of a dirt track. She plans to work here (she’s a journalist and writer) and make a life for herself.

Things are not going well, she’s lonely and literally gets lost in the woods. She fights back by following a map reading course that also gives her insight to guide the rest of her life back to normality.

The narration felt a bit distant. I never connected with the author. The reader learns a bit of her past, but generally, she remains a stranger who is lost in the woods. I admired her nerve for living so isolated and trying to cope on her own in a whole new situation. It was interesting to read about her navigation lessons and her mother’s mental degradation that is a small part of the story, too.

Even though I never got to know the narrator, I still thought this was an interesting memoir about a middle-aged woman trying to get her feet back on the ground.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (good)

Number of pages: 272

First published: 2014

I got this: from the publisher, Harper, for review

Genre: non-fiction, memoir


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

7 Responses to Book Review: Out of the Woods by Lynn Darling

  1. This reminds me a bit of a good fictional take on this, although there is a trauma underlying the move and, consequently, a sense of healing: Laurie R. King’s Folly (one of her rather gently suspenseful books).

  2. I saw this book on Amazon, and while the premise was interesting to me (I, too, love the idea of a cabin in the woods), something about it kept me from buying it. Having read your review, I wonder if it was the fact that the book’s summary itself seems distant. I don’t feel drawn in/involved, and I think I was worried the whole book would be like that. (I felt the same about a couple of other similar memoirs that I actually tried reading: And I Shall Have Some Peace There by Margaret Roach and Slow Love by Dominique Browning.)

    • Leeswammes says:

      Thanks for your comment, Sharon. It’s odd for a memoir when you don’t feel attached to the author, isn’t it? Maybe they don’t dare to give too much of themselves – but then maybe they shouldn’t write a memoir! 🙂

  3. Laurie C says:

    I steer clear of naturalist types of memoirs, which is what I think of when I think of living in the woods, but maybe this is more about the classes than living in the woods? As someone with no sense of direction, who spent a lifetime getting lost before I got a phone with a GPS app, getting lost in the woods seems an especially scary idea, so I admire the author’s bravery. It is hard to strike the right tone in a memoir, I think — to make your personal experience into a universal one without adding too much distance.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Laurie, this isn’t naturalistic. It’s more about the writer finding her way in life in general. She uses what she learns in the course, and in being on her own in the house (and the things that happen while she lives there), to understand her life and change it for the better.

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