In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country

In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country

Kim Barnes

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 0385478216

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Poet Kim Barnes grew up in northern Idaho, in the isolated camps where her father worked as a logger and her mother made a modest but comfortable home for her husband and two children. Their lives were short on material wealth, but long on the riches of family and friendship, and the great sheltering power of the wilderness. But in the mid-1960's, as automation and a declining economy drove more and more loggers out of the wilderness and into despair, Kim's father dug in and determined to stay. It was then the family turned fervently toward Pentecostalism. It was then things changed.

In the Wilderness is the poet's own account of a journey toward adulthood against an interior landscape every bit as awesome, as beautiful, and as fraught with hidden peril as the great forest itself. It is a story of how both faith and geography can shape the heart and soul, and of the uncharted territory we all must enter to face our demons. Above all, it is the clear-eyed and moving account of a young woman's coming of terms with her family, her homeland, her spirituality, and herself.

In presenting Kim Barnes the 1995 PENJerard Fund Award for a work-in-progress by an emerging female writer, the panel of judges wrote that "In the Wilderness is far more than a personal memoir," adding that it stands "almost as a cautionary example of the power of good prose to distinguish whatever it touches." Indeed, In the Wilderness is an extraordinary work, courageous, candid, and exquisitely written.

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He’s abandoned you in the middle of nowhere. He thinks he sees demons. He’s obsessed, dangerous, mad. The voice was sometimes one she recognized, come from the past to haunt her. What would her grandmother think, her mother? She could see their eyes narrow, their mouths tighten, their judgment settle heavy and unspoken. Even some of the church people were sure to view such conspicuous self-denial as suspect, and she steeled herself to ignore their looks of pity, the wagging of heads when they

good and drive the winding road to Lewiston. I began clearing my shelves and dresser, filling boxes marked in big black letters, “KIM’S ROOM” and “BOOKS.” It didn’t seem real that I might never see my room again. After years of seasonal moving, nothing seemed ever to be left wholly behind: we always came back to the fragrant smell of pine, to the creeks, to the town where every building, fence and driveway was familiar and expected. Still flush from the cold water and the attention of my

I found it comforting. As I listened, knowing that hours were passing only by what the voice told me, even the more raucous lyrics lost much of their ominousness. I liked the sound of the deejay’s voice and the way he introduced the songs like old friends, as though there was nothing more natural in the world than to be alone in a glass booth, talking to a microphone in the middle of the night. In a way, we were alike, he and I, alone in our rooms, conversing with the air. Kevin was his name,

rocking slightly, but this too was agony. “Danny, listen. You’re okay, you’re in Scott’s basement, in Lewiston. It’s 1972. You’re okay.” He moaned and opened his eyes wide. I could see the fear there, the vision he could not escape. “Slap him,” someone said. “Slap him hard.” I raised my hand but could not do it and thought for a moment to pray. “God, he’s dying!” I cried. “Help him, help him!” Someone pulled me into the next room, gave me a cigarette already lit. “We’ve got to call the

I shrugged. She knew I smoked. She smeared a bit of Vaseline on my cut, then resumed her place at the sink. There was a heaviness in her movement, a hint that something was working inside her, and I waited to see what would come of it. She ran her rag around the edge of a plate. “It’s my fault, you know.” “What’s your fault? The fight?” “No, your smoking. God’s punishing me through you.” What was she talking about? I knew she had smoked before, during those years in the camps. But why would

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