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68:4 Book Review: In the house of wilderness
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Tennessee Libraries


Volume 68 Issue 4 2018
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Book Review

White, C.D. (2018). In the house of wilderness. Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press. 264 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0804012102

by Presley Dyer

Presley Dyer is a Catalog Librarian at Tennessee State University.


Charles Dodd White adds another spellbinding novel to the Appalachian Gothic genre with his latest, In the House of Wilderness. The story begins with the introduction of Wolf, Winter, and Rain, three drifters who have created a survival lifestyle of “charity and deceit.” Moving from place to place, they finally settled upon an abandoned homeplace in the Eastern Tennessee mountains. The owner of the property, a widower, Stratton Bryant, has also built his own tactic of survival by attempting to drink his sorrows away.  After a series of events brings Stratton and Rain to a bonding friendship, the two soon discover that life can perhaps be more than just merely surviving, and solace can be had.

Such a melancholic plot requires precision and depth in order to keep the reader’s attention, and White does exactly that. His lyrical style of writing and his attention to detail allows readers to not only get to know the characters, but get involved in their world. It is rare to find such stories which create this connection with the reader. White’s vibrant words construct a sense of attachment to the characters. The reader does not only read about their sufferings, but actually get to endure their sufferings right along with them. As a result, one has a fine example of what true storytelling is.

Because of its Appalachian Mountains setting, nature, of course, plays a vital role in the novel. White personifies nature in phrases such as “the mountains went to sleep” and “the earth could turn its eye of disfavor on a single man.” In addition, he gives nature a human appearance through the characterizations of Wolf, Winter, and Rain, who each represent their given names nicely. For instance, Wolf has “a presence there that was like being filled something dark.” Also, Rain becomes a source of growth for Stratton, just like rain is a source of growth for greenery. Such depictions help describe the characters with more than just simple adjectives. White gives these characters a sense of purpose. More importantly, he illustrates just how important nature is to an Appalachian story.

Although it a tale with dreadful hardships and pain, In the House of Wilderness is worth the suspense. At its essence, it is a story of belonging and finding one’s place in a trying world. Each chapter ultimately builds up to the epic conclusion and keeps the reader wanting more; therefore, this would be a great addition to any public library. Overall, terrific writing and fascinating characters create a story that needs to be heard and gives Charles Dodd White a respect for true achievement in Appalachian, Southern literature.


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