Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Gone Feral by Novella Carpenter

By Daena

Gone Feral is Novella Carpenter's search for her father.  Back-to-the-land homesteader, gifted classical guitarist, Korean War vet, hermit, curmudgeon, George Carpenter has been absent for most of his daughter's life.  But when he officially goes missing - only to be found in a fleabag Arizona motel escaping the brutal Idaho winter - his daughter is forced to confront the truth:  Her time with her dad, now seventy-three years old, is limited, and the moment to restore their relationship is now.  Thus begins a journey of discovery that carries Carpenter from her Oakland urban farm to her father's ramshackle cabin on a quest for connection that reveals who she is and where she came from.

The story starts in San Miguel de Allende in 1969, where Carpenter's free-spirited parents meet and fall in love.  Their whirlwind romance continues through Europe and ends on 180 acres beside Idaho's Clearwater River.  Carpenter and her sister are born into a free, roaming childhood but soon the harsh reality of living on the land  loneliness, backbreaking labor - tears the family apart.  Carpenter's mother packs the girls and heads for the straight life in Washington State while George remains on the ranch, tied to the land and his vision of freedom.

In Gone Feral, Carpenter, now a grown woman contemplating a family of her own, returns to the wild to answer why her father chose this life of solitude.  She quickly finds that Geroge is not living the principled, romantic life she dreamed and the truth is ore complicated than anything she might have imagined.  As she comes to know the real George, Carpenter looks to her own life and comes to recognize her father's legacy in their shared love of animals, of nature and of the written word; their dangerous stubbornness and isolating independence. (taken from the back of the book)

The author's raw, matter-of-fact approach to writing really allowed me to delve into this book.  It was as though I, as the reader, was experiencing some of the same revelations as the author was experiencing as the story is told.  Novella tells her own life experience, but allows the reader the emotional connection to relate her to trials and triumphs with ease and even revelations.

If it is possible to truly need to read a book, I needed to read this one.  The author includes so many insights in to life and lessons about self-acceptance, unconditional love (or true love), survivalism and rebellion, spelled out with humor and straight-forwardness, that I believe I am a better person for having read this book.  Novella Carpenter did her audience a great favor by sharing her experiences, in her wonderful writing style, with the world.  This is definitely on my list of favorite books I've read.

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