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Book Review :: The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff

Guest Post by Kevin Brown

The premise of Lauren Groff’s latest novel, The Vaster Wilds, is simple: a girl runs away from a settlement in Colonial America for reasons the reader will discover later in the book. The storyline moves between her attempts to stay alive in an unwelcoming environment and her past life as a servant. Those two situations are not as different from one another as they initially seem.

While Groff tells a believable story about a girl several hundred years ago, she is just as interested in talking about what it means to be a female in the twenty-first century. One of the few times the girl encounters anybody outside the settlement, she sees two Indigenous men. When Groff writes, “And she was chilled to her soul, for it was reflexive, for she feared the fate of women anywhere, women caught alone on a dark street in a city, in a country lane far from human ears, in any place where there were no other people nearby to witness,” she could be describing everyday life for women.

Groff also reminds readers of men’s insatiable need to own and dominate, whether that’s women or land. Near the end of the novel, the narrator reflects, “The men of her own country had always felt this nothing deep within them; . . . it gave them a need to set their boots upon everything they saw.”

Groff is writing about what it means to be a woman in America today, living in fear of what men might do to them while watching what men do to the world around them.

The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff. Riverhead Books, September 2023.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite

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