A Novel

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Book Description

“[A] remarkable story.” —The New York Times Book Review

Henry Fielder, solitary and unmoored in his thirties, runs into an old lover and finds himself ready to tell the story he has harbored for two decades. He is fifteen, in rural western Oregon, enduring a year of sorrows. His mother has died, his father is physically abusive, and his extraordinary spiritual affinity for the wild lives of his native country seems to desert him. An older couple, retiring to the area from California, offer solace and expanded cultural horizons but set him further at odds with his millworker father. The abuse escalates, and ultimately a natural disaster catalyzes a crisis in which father and son betray each other and Henry sets out on a trek through the backcountry of the Oregon Coast Range, seeking to understand what has happened and to forge a new sense of self.

A Huck Finn of the modern age, Henry is portrayed with a directness and clarity that pulls readers through the environmental dynamics of the Pacific Northwest. In stark yet beautiful prose that highlights his long tenure as a nature writer, Daniel creates an odyssey that explores the spiritual dimensions and deeply entangled pains and pleasures of belonging to the human domain and the natural world of which it is part.

Set in the mid–1990s, when environmentalists and timber communities warred over the future of the last Northwestern old–growth forests, Gifted is the story of a young man with a metaphysical imagination—naïve yet wise, gifted yet ordinary—who comes of age under harsh circumstances, negotiating the wildness of his home country, of his human relationships, and of the emerging complexities of his own being.

About the Author

Praise For This Book

Praise for Gifted: A Novel

“This alluring debut novel [is] primarily set in the hippie– and blue–collar–populated Oregon Coast Range during the timber wars of the mid–1990s...Daniel explores an ecology of natives and invasives—plant and animal—while rendering clear–cuts and second–growth forests with the same keen eye for beauty as he does towering old growths. ... [A] remarkable story.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Daniel captures Henry's feeling of isolation and loneliness with eloquent prose that draws readers into the mossy old–growth forests of the Northwest. His clean descriptions and comforting digressions about the landscape mirror Henry's own attempts to find solace in an unjust, confusing world. Daniel's impressive novel quietly builds, ending in a place where Henry can see the way past his experiences into a much more beautiful, logical future.” —Publishers Weekly

“Emotionally raw and evocative, Gifted is a rare book that manages to intertwine family drama, internal turmoil and landscapes of the world around it all. Set in Oregon’s Coast Range, the book is the first novel by Eugene poet and essayist John Daniel, whose lush writing has a way of haunting you long after the last page.” —The Oregonian, 1 of 21 Books We Loved in 2017

"Lyrical evocations of nature clash with shocking revelations of human nature in this coming–of–age story.... [A] stroll through the wilderness of adolescence and the Oregon woods.” —Kirkus Reviews

“With Gifted, John Daniel has given us a lyrical, soaring tale that is deeply affecting. It's full of love and pain and understanding and forgiveness . . . as is life, if we're as lucky as our hero–guide, Henry Fielder. Daniel has written a transformative novel I will never forget.” —Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain and A Sudden Light

“Part Catcher in the Rye, part Sometimes a Great Notion, John Daniel's novel vividly evokes the emotional tempest of youth, the cultures and subcultures of the Pacific Northwest, and the rainwashed, animal–rich forests of Oregon's Coast Range.” —Scott Slovic, University of Idaho, editor of ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment

“When Huck Finn lit out for the Territory, no doubt he found a mysterious, magical world much like that in John Daniel's modern coming–of–age tale. The glories, the violence, the stirring spirit that fashioned our nation continue, and are vividly chronicled in this bold and generous novel. Daniel has reseen and regifted us all with our deepest, most cherished American stories, expressed here with poetic precision, amplitude, grace.” —Tracy Daugherty, author of What Falls Away and The Boy Orator

“The gifts that relieve the guilt and losses suffered by John Daniel's teenage hero come from the living matrix we call nature—rivers and mountains, lion and coyote and bear, stars and storms and throngs of birds—and from human guides—foster parents, a wise elder, a backwoods sage, two lovers, and a sympathetic judge. All of these redemptive figures, human and greater–than–human, are vividly rendered by a writer whose feeling for language and landscape shines from every page.” —Scott Russell Sanders, author of Earth Works and Dancing in Dreamtime

“Gifted tells of growing up in the semi–outback and sometimes dangerous Coast Range of Oregon. It grows and rings as it matures. John Daniel has been one of our finest for a long while. He is to be congratulated again.” —William Kittredge, author of A Hole in the Sky and The Willow Field

“I take John Daniel's Gifted as personally as my own Willamette Valley boyhood. Henry Fielder brought back 1,247 things I've lived. The joys and sorrows of full sensory immersion in an astoundingly beautiful, grievously wounded place. Being fed by both the beauty and the woundings. Coming of age, or trying to, in an industrial anti–culture that sees the adoration of trilliums, ancient trees, wild places, and early mystical experience as alienation.” When Henry finally set down his pen I experienced a small miracle: the teen in me bowing, feeling completely understood and vindicated, half a century after the fact.” —David James Duncan, author of The River Why and The Brothers K