By Lauren Groff
The Vaster Wilds is Undoubtedly One of the Best Books of 2023.
A fifteen-year-old servant girl escapes from a starving and plague-ridden colonial American settlement under cover of darkness in 1610. The girl faces harsh conditions as she runs through the snow, ice, and wind in the northern wilderness. She fears men that may be lurking in the shadows of the woods. She forages for anything edible, builds shelters from the storms, and survives from one day to the next out of pure desperation, hope, and willpower.
She chose to flee and leave the only family she had ever known. She carries only a few necessities: two small blankets, an axe, a knife, a cup, and a flint. She was a decent and devout girl, familiar with stories from the bible. As she runs, she prays for guidance in escaping death and seeking a safer life than what she has known thus far on this new wretched land. What she discovers is peace in a land more extensive and filled with more beauty than she could have ever imagined.
The Vaster Wilds is a rugged, suspense-filled adventure story full of hope and determination. It is one young girl’s perspective of the colonization of America and the trials and tribulations she encountered. This creative piece of literary fiction is simply beautiful. It’s poignant, moving, and thought-provoking.
The book is vividly descriptive. You can’t help but feel the biting wind and the ice-chilling snow. You will huddle with this servant girl in whatever hovel she can build to protect us from the elements. We are with her every step of the way in this masterful journey.
My favorite part is when the young girl finds a boat hidden under branches next to the river she was following. She sets off in the boat with the currents and soon manages to create a sail with one of her blankets. She can finally rest her sore, and aching feet, and we will rest with her in that boat.
Despite the cold, the young girl’s character is heart-warming. You want her to survive, and you soon realize she has already faced immense pain and suffering before ever stepping on American soil. As we follow her on her journey, she unveils layer upon layer of her past; as an orphan, a servant girl, and even as she sailed crossed the sea to what was supposed to be a better life.
The Vaster Wilds is undoubtedly one of the best books of 2023. Lauren Groff is quite a storyteller; from Matrix (2022) to Fates and Furies (2015), she continually produces tantalizing literary works of art.
Thanks to Netgalley for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher Riverhead Books
Published September 7, 2023