“What a terrific tale John Pipkin spins! He has taken a dramatic episode in the life of Thoreau and the history of Concord, Massachusetts, where I have lived for over thirty years, and transformed it into a gripping and profound work of fiction. More than a century and a half ago, my fellow Concordian, Ralph Waldo Emerson said
of Walt Whitman. 'I greet you at the beginning of a great career.' The same can now be said to the wonderfully talented Mr. Pipkin.”
-- Doris Kearns Goodwin
Pulitzer Prize winning author and presidential historian
“Witty, bawdy, philosophical, touching, and humorous, Woodsburner is a novel I didn’t want to end. While Pipkin’s book celebrates a sense of both the abundance and fragility of Thoreau’s Nature, it also creates a new American Adam and Eve, thoroughly flawed from the beginning but ultimately victorious in their shared joy. Much as in our own time, both the historic and fictive characters struggle with their desire for life-shaping change, the age-old stirrings of the body, and economic necessity along with their quests for spiritual, intellectual, and artistic fulfillment. This book is packed with interesting ideas, vital characters, and vivid writing.”
-- Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab’s Wife and Four Spirits
“Characters whose inner lives are richly and complexly rendered, a suspenseful narrative, and impeccable period details make Woodsburner an exceptional debut. Pipkin tells his story with the verve and authority of a veteran novelist, and the result is a book that, once begun, compels the reader onward to the very last sentence.”
-- Ron Rash, author of Serena, Chemistry and Other Stories, One Foot in Eden,
and The World Made Straight
“John Pipkin's Woodsburner is an audacious, wondrous surprise -- audacious for putting someone like Henry David Thoreau and a true event from his life (a great fire) in a novel. It is a luminous story, in which Thoreau, a handful of insightfully drawn characters, and an America they all embody are cast in vivid relief. It is also a beautiful story of this country in its formative stages - how community, property, prosperity are being parsed out.
Its language is one with the times. It has one of our bookseller ancestors down pat, for sure. Another character embraces the wonders of woods - and womanhood - in ways even Thoreau never will equal. The fire itself is a real character, illuminating as it destroys. 165 years later, Woodsburner feels like a story from yesterday."
-- Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Washington
“This is a remarkable debut. The words leap gorgeously from the pages and the characters are sharply etched. Pipkin asks us to consider what the new world offered to people and how easily they could squander the opportunities, wasting both the physical landscape and even the chance to start anew. Amazingly, all of the action takes place during a few hours -- six, seven. And over a few hundred acres. (There was the fear, of course, that Concord itself could burn.) But the urgency of these hours is so palpable and the destruction seemed so terrible to those experiencing it that it seems longer and larger.
Pipkin gracefully weaves into the action during those hours each person's background -- how did they come to be in Concord, what formed each one --with their own experience of the fire. It's as though the fire was burning through to the essence of each person. Although I usually read too quickly, I slowed down to savor each phrase.”
-- Carla Cohen, Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C.
“Woodsburner is that rare work of fiction that brings the past to life so vividly it feels authentic and lived-in on every page. Pipkin populates Thoreau’s world with a wonderful array of beautifully realized characters, all of them wholly believable and true to themselves. In scene after scene, the novel conveys such an immediate sense of how life was really lived in this time and place that it made me want to go back and reread Walden with a fresh eye. Woodsburner is a terrific debut.”
-- Roxanne Coady, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Connecticut
Causes John Pipkin Supports
Trust for Public Land
Writers' League of Texas