pipkin-woods_burner1Woodsburner by John Pipkin

Before he moved into his cabin at Walden, before he published his most famous text, before he wrote that most of us “lead lives of quiet desperation,” Thoreau was a big fat nobody. In fact, he was even worse than a nobody.

Almost a year before he embarked on his Walden experiment, Thoreau was responsible for a forest fire that consumed over 300 acres of Concord’s woods–which, given that there were fewer trees in Concord than there are today, is actually much worse than it sounds. Despite the fact that this accidental fire melts into the background of most of his biographies, there has always been debate about how much his guilt over this fire impacted the rest of his life–most particularly his decision to move into the cabin in the woods.

Was he just trying to escape the whispered calls of “Woodsburner” in his home? Was he guilty over destroying property? Or did it spark the naturalism that he is so known for today?

Local author John Pipkin has added his two cents to the debate with his novel Woodsburner. Pipkin draws on the feelings of isolation and indecision that eat at a man who is doing less than he is destined to do, creating in Thoreau a character that we can all identify with. On the day of the fire, Thoreau meets with three very different and very entertaining characters who are all deeply affected by his mistake.

Fans of historical fiction, and particularly historical fiction about real people, have something to be really happy about. And you don’t have to take my word for it either. My favorite historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, had this to say about Woodsburner:

“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.”

We’d like to invite you to come to this very special event at BookPeople on Thursday, May 7 at 7 PM to get a copy of this great book and greet this talented new author at the beginning of what will surely be a great and prolific career.

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