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At the Gate of All Wonder by Kevin McIlvoy
"What a strange and miraculous book. The soundscape of deep woods, children in training to hear beyond the hearable, their cosmically cranky instructor, petty and lethal revenge on all sides...don't expect to emerge unchanged."
"Deeply odd, wonderfully original, At the Gate of All Wonder has the power of fresh myth. From these enchanted woods we emerge...terrified, illuminated, struck all over again by the wonders of the natural world and the passionate strangeness of familial love."
"I'll go out on a limb and say that At the Gate of All Wonder is revolutionary. For it teaches the reader how to listen in a whole new way, and how to be fully present to our natural surroundings. It is also a fantastic novel, funny and wise and vividly rendered, with a most distinctive protagonist. I recommend this wild journey!"
Samantha Peabody, a seasoned bio-acoustician and eccentric recluse living in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest, recalls in this journal-like novel her year with two children who accompanied her in a “Sonic Adventure Program,” deep in the woods. While she relates the story of the love that develops between her and the children—despite her efforts to resist—Sam offers a ferociously honest confession of love’s demise.
Twelve years earlier, she’d chosen to leave the world and permanently live alone. Yet spending time with the girls, eight-year-old Betty and six-year-old Janet, Sam must confront her conscience in light of an ever-expanding communion with the forest around them.
McIlvoy’s sixth book is a novel of ideas and of character, the tale of an aging adult and two troubled children, and their shared journey to compassion. In its uncanny texture and structure, the novel contemplates the transformations possible for those who listen to—and truly hear—the sounds of wilderness, where one’s true nature sings.
Kevin McIlvoy’s previous novels are The Fifth Station (Collier, 1989), Hyssop (Harper Perennial, 1999), and Little Peg (Harper Perennial, 2000), and his most recent book is a set of linked prose pieces, 57 Octaves Below Middle C (Four Way, 2017). His short stories, collected in The Complete History of New Mexico (Graywolf, 2005), were featured in journals such as The Southern Review, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, and The Paris Review. He has taught writing for more than twenty-five years, previously at New Mexico State University, where he was editor-in-chief of Puerto del Sol. He now teaches in the graduate creative writing program at Warren Wilson College and lives near Asheville.