The Woods explores the lives of people in a small Vermont college town and its surrounding areas-a place at the edge of the bucolic, where the land begins to shift into something untamed. In the tradition of Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge and Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, these stories follow people who carry private griefs but search for contentment. As they try to make sense of their worlds, grappling with problems-worried about their careers, their marriages, their children, their ambitions-they also sift through the happiness they have, and often find deep solace in the landscape.
What do we find in the woods? An uplifting of spirit or a quieting of sorrow. A sense of being haunted by the past. Sometimes rougher, more violent things: abandoned quarries and feral cats, black bears, brothers caught up in an escalating war, a ghost who wishes to pass on her despair, monsters who boom with hollow ecstatic laughter. But also songbirds: the hermit thrush and the winter wren. Rushing rivers glossy with froth. A nineteenth-century inn that’s somehow gotten by all these years. And far within, a vegetal twilight and constant dusk that feels outside of time. This remarkable debut illuminates the ways we all carry within ourselves aspects stark, beautiful, wild, and unknowable.
Janice Obuchowski is the author of THE WOODS, winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award (University of Iowa Press, 2022). Her stories have twice received special mention in the Pushcart Prize anthologies and have appeared or are forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Alaska Quarterly Review, Iowa Review, Gettysburg Review, Conjunctions online, and LitHub. She earned her BA from Cornell, her MA from the University of Virginia, and her MFA from UC Irvine. Previously, she served as a fiction editor for the New England Review and has taught at the University of Vermont and Middlebury College. She lives in Middlebury, Vermont.
Read: Millstone Hill, Conjunctions
Prompt: Pick three random headlines from today’s news pages. Now, choose four words from each and begin writing. Try and incorporate all four into a short piece and keep writing for as long as you can.