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Wild Life by Molly Gloss
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Wild Life (2000)

by Molly Gloss

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2731141,545 (3.59)31
Recently added byetbm2003, LaurelAM, rudidorn, private library, kbrookhart, wacabe, paxber, dnelson, ArgoLib, wesmrlnd
  1. 10
    Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler (lquilter)
    lquilter: Gloss writes beautifully, as does Fowler. The settings are similar -- 19th century Pacific Northwest. The premise is also related; an almost realistic novel that slips into SF-ality.
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» See also 31 mentions

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I really wanted to like this book, because it had a number of elements that normally appeal to me: strong female protagonist, feminism, and an historic setting (in this case, the Pacific Northwest c1900). The main character, a widowed mother of four, sets off to help find a missing child and goes missing herself. Unfortunately, the events that followed seemed a bit far-fetched, and the account of her adventure was interspersed with other writings, making it difficult to make sense of the work as a whole. ( )
  lauralkeet | Aug 21, 2012 |
In “Wild Life” Molly Gloss weaves the remarkable story of Charlotte Bridger Drummond in the early years of the 20th Century. Raising her sons along the Columbia River in a southern Washington state just emerging from frontier status, Mrs. Drummond embraces her husbandless state for the independence it gives her. She harbors resentment for her disappeared husband, and has never quite accepted his presumed death. It pleases her more to left behind and put upon, than let herself don the weeds of a grieving widow.

Charlotte, willfully independent, writes adventure novels about strong, independent, young heroines, and sometimes resents the distraction of trying to raise her five sons. She has help in that area, and in the necessary housework; Melba is her live-in housekeeper and cook, and holds the accepted notions of femininity and motherhood which rule those times. When Melba’s four-year-old granddaughter goes missing at a logging camp to which her father took her, Charlotte leaves home to join the search parties. Here is when the story really takes flight.

Ms. Gloss’s early chapters display a perfect early 20th-Century language and societal attitude through the voice of a dissenter. The early chapters echo Twain throughout. However, the arch and ironical tone slowly fades as Charlotte goes to the wilderness in search of young Harriet, where the necessities of living rough and how the men cope with them come to the fore. The fantasies Charlotte has entertained about heroically finding Harriet in her first couple of days evaporate quickly as the drudgery of the actual search sets in. When Charlotte herself becomes lost in the forest, rough times become absolutely desperate. Lucky for us, Ms. Gloss has given her heroine a supply of paper and pencils so she can keep her sanity in the one way that can give her days structure and her mind her own: she writes. Such is her state that she begins to speculate which day she will die; at this extreme juncture she meets and is adopted by a family of forest primates, of an unknown species, which saves her life.

The interlude of her salvation starts a new flight of introspection in which she must reexamine her notions of family, the differences between the sexes, and the distinction between humans and animals. Ms. Gloss nails these speculations perfectly. Of course, we are forced to consider these issues alongside our heroine; the author shoves her and us toward new subtleties and a new honesty in how we look at the world. These issues are presented in a kind of multi-media format, in which the main body of the narrative is interweaved with contemporaneous news articles, excerpts written by the author before and after her adventure, and long asides about characters. The whole hangs superbly together, and displays the author’s command of news and attitudes, scientific knowledge and thought of the day. More important, however, Ms. Gloss gives us the inward journey of a real human heroine, through harrowing adventure, and the even greater challenge of a changed and refocused heart. The author gives us a remarkable, truly moving work in “Wild Life,” and I urge you to take it up.

http://bassoprofundo1.blogspot.com/2011/09/wild-life-by-molly-gloss.html ( )
  LukeS | Sep 24, 2011 |
Wild Life takes place in the wilds of Oregon/Washington state in the early 1900s. Charlotte Bridger Drummond is a feisty, independent, feminist, single mother of five (all boys) who supports her children by writing dime store novels. She has a bit of an ego and flies the feminist flag a little too frequently, but has a good heart. When her housekeeper's granddaughter goes missing in the logging hills of the Oregon/Washington border she bravely joins the search believing her strength and savvy will bring the child home. To her utter surprise Charlotte gets lost herself and must depend on a group of shy Big foot-like beasts for survival. While the overall premise of Wild Life is fascinating and the strength of Gloss's writing is intoxicating, the mishmash of storytelling misses its mark. Interspersed between Charlotte's tale (in the form of a diary) of her search for the missing child and her adventure with the wild ones is a third-party narrative about barely related characters, short literary quotes, science related newspaper and journal clippings, and substantial excerpts from CBD's current in-the-works novel. Much like I wanted to see the Ya-Ya scrapbook in The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells I think Wild Life would have benefitted from a tangible scrapbookish approach (think Nick Bantock). ( )
  SeriousGrace | Sep 8, 2010 |
Great detail, didn't like the plot. ( )
  picardyrose | May 18, 2010 |
I really wanted to like this one. It's set in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1900's. A very independent woman support her family by writing dimestore adventure novels. She gets drawn into her own adventure when she joins the search for a missing child in the woods near Mt St Helens. Sasquatch are involved. Exquisite writing. But.. the narrative is a mix of diary entries and straight narrative. And this is interspersed with (non-chronological) excerpts from the protagonist's novels and personal essays, and a few newspaper articles. It's interesting -- did the writing influence life, or vice-versa, or both? But it got hard to follow, especially with the chronology jumping around, and I eventually got lazy and just skimmed any parts that weren't part of the main plot. ( )
1 vote SugarCreekRanch | Feb 8, 2010 |
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Epigraph
There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that. (Genesis 6:4)
Dedication
Pat Zagelow ("For my sister, Pat Zagelow")
First words
April 5, 1999

Sara,

You said you wanted to see the whole thing just as I found it, so it's un-messed with, except I'm the one who rubberbanded it with cardboard.
Sat'y 25 Mar '05


The death of Jules Verne was reported in the morning papers -- a great loss to France and to the world.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618131574, Paperback)

One of the many pleasures of Molly Gloss's extraordinary third novel is watching it repeatedly change shape and direction before your eyes--a feat all the more wonderful since the narrative consists almost entirely of the fictional diaries of one woman. Charlotte Bridger Drummond--an early-20th-century single mother who supports five young sons in the just-tamed wilderness fringe of western Oregon by writing pulp fiction--presents herself as a bluff, free-thinking feminist, the kind of woman who would tumble her youngest son off her lap and onto the floor for whining. When her housekeeper's frail young granddaughter disappears from a logging camp, Charlotte unhesitatingly sets out to join the inept search parties. So, within 90 pages, Molly Gloss (The Dazzle of Day and The Jump-Off Creek) whisks us from pitch-perfect historical fiction to unsentimental lament over the devastation of the "dark and supernatural woods" of the Pacific Northwest to a kind of wild and woolly mystery story.

All of this is immensely engaging, mostly because Charlotte herself is such excellent if occasionally astringent company. But the book really catches fire when Charlotte herself gets lost in the woods. The diary continues through the harrowing days of wet, cold, hunger, hope, despair, and then her fantastic rescue by a band of semihuman giants of the deep woods. Introducing the Sasquatch legend into an otherwise scrupulously realistic historical novel might seem like a risky narrative ploy, but Gloss brilliantly pulls it off. Indeed, so deft is her fusing of the fantastic and the actual that by the end, the narrative transmogrifies once more into a profound and troubling meditation on wildness, nature, and human nature.

Wild Life brings to mind the works of Jean M. Auel, Marilynne Robinson, Ken Kesey (that dank Oregon setting of Sometimes a Great Notion), and more distantly Willa Cather--but the breadth and daring of Gloss's imagination really puts it in a class of its own. In a sense, unifying all of the many strands of this fictional tour de force is a fiercely candid portrait of the artist, an artist who in Charlotte's words fears "coming face-to-face with my Self on the printed page--it would chill me through to the heart," but who does it anyway. --David Laskin

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:48 -0400)

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