What Should Be Wild: A Novel

What Should Be Wild: A Novel

by Julia Fine


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“Delightful and darkly magical. Julia Fine has written a beautiful modern myth, a coming-of-age story for a girl with a worrisome power over life and death. I loved it.”  —Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry

Finalist for the Bram Stoker Superior Achievement in a First Novel Award • Shortlisted for the Chicago Review of Books Best Novel Prize • A Bustle Unmissable Debut of the Year • A Popsugar Best Book of the Year • A Washington Post Best Fantasy Book of May • A Refinery 29 Best May Book • A Chicago Review of Books Best May Book • A Verge Gripping Fantasy Novel of May

In this darkly funny, striking debut, a highly unusual young woman must venture into the woods at the edge of her home to remove a curse that has plagued the women in her family for millennia—an utterly original novel with all the mesmerizing power of The Tiger’s Wife, The Snow Child, and Swamplandia!

Cursed. Maisie Cothay has never known the feel of human flesh: born with the power to kill or resurrect at her slightest touch, she has spent her childhood sequestered in her family’s manor at the edge of a mysterious forest. Maisie’s father, an anthropologist who sees her as more experiment than daughter, has warned Maisie not to venture into the wood. Locals talk of men disappearing within, emerging with addled minds and strange stories. What he does not tell Maisie is that for over a millennium her female ancestors have also vanished into the wood, never to emerge—for she is descended from a long line of cursed women.

But one day Maisie’s father disappears, and Maisie must venture beyond the walls of her carefully constructed life to find him. Away from her home and the wood for the very first time, she encounters a strange world filled with wonder and deception. Yet the farther she strays, the more the wood calls her home. For only there can Maisie finally reckon with her power and come to understand the wildest parts of herself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062684141
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/07/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 250,487
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Julia Fine is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago’s MFA program. She teaches writing in Chicago, where she lives with her husband and son.

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What Should Be Wild 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
gaele More than 1 year ago
Born with a curse that many women in her family have: Maisie Cothay cannot touch or be touched, for she holds the power of life and death in her hands. Without a mother, her anthropologist father has died and been reborn multiple times before she had control of her power, as he carefully watches, documents and contains her in the large manor house at the edge of the forest. Now sixteen, Maisie has questions – lots of questions, many centered around the forest that must never be entered, where her mother is, and now, just why her father has disappeared. If you’ve ever read the ORIGINAL Grimm tales – Fine’s use of detailed and not, suspense, language and description all bring the feel of a cost yet to be paid – probably in horrible ways, all wrapped in, or perhaps soft-focused in a slightly menacing foggy overlay that heightens senses and keeps your head on a swivel. Fine’s ability to draw readers into the story as Maisie learns of the women in her family as she searches for the “why” she was cursed: a lovely series of insets that mix myth, legend and personal history of the struggles, challenges and lives of her foremothers. Slowly but surely, Maisie comes to discover the why, how to live with the isolation and loneliness, and the dangers in the wood. Unlike anything I’ve read before, the plotting, the concept and the intention come through very clearly, weaving together myth, magic and the usual teenage angst aided by the isolation, questions about family, the mystery surrounding her father’s disappearance and further questions about love, life and moving forward, Maisie is a wonderfully rich and nuanced character, and that ability to present a character, flaws and all – show clearly in both present and past – from her father’s remove to the ‘scientific’ as he studies (more so than parents) her, the true genesis for the curse and just why the woods were more of a ‘container’ for her foremothers, and just what that means. Even after a slower start as the myth and background is laid, the story quickly becomes a page turner as tension, answers and more questions surface in near every page. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
bkworm_ran More than 1 year ago
Whatever she touches dies. If she touches it again, she can bring it back. Maisie Cothay has grown up knowing this. She killed her mother, after all. She can feel the pull of the forest, the cursed forest into which a few women have disappeared throughout history. What is the curse of this forest? Why is her father so worried about her journeying into it? As Maisie grows into a young woman, she decides she can make decisions and finds herself on a quest that could put everyone she has grown to love into serious jeopardy, including herself. Fine’s debut is dark and mystical. It begins slowly as the author lays out the foundation of the story and before you realize it the story has buried its roots into you and you cannot put it down or look away from Maisie’s journey. Teen fans of Alice Hoffman will gladly sink within the pages of this mythical adventure. Fine has woven romance and a touch of the mystic into a tale of a young woman reaching out to break the bonds of childhood to become her own woman. #harpercollins #whatshouldbewild #juliafine I wish to thank the generosity of the publisher for providing an advanced reader’s copy for my approval.
Rick Berdelle More than 1 year ago
Julia Fine's debut novel is a unique take on a familiar tale. Every word seems to flow effortlessly from the last in Fine's beautiful prose. Her subtle depictions of societal oppression and the story's surprising conclusion really cause the reader to question: Why do we tame what should be wild?
mdemanatee More than 1 year ago
This is not going to be for everyone. But if you love the liminal space of the woods. If you love poetic imagery and manifestations. Prose that places you in a world that is both familiar and completely strange. Read this book. I loved it.
BeccaEm More than 1 year ago
I went back and forth on whether or not this book deserved three or four stars. I read this book in only three sittings because it definitely kept me turning the page but at some points I felt I was dragging through. There were a few times in which I felt we were lingering just waiting for something to happen but nothing was. For instance there was once a stretch of about 50 pages where there was absolutely no plot development simply internal monologues and thought processes. Some character development happened but not enough for it be warranted. I loved the sections that focused on the "other Forest" and the girl with the dark eyes. Those sections are ultimately what kept me through to the end but the ending felt unsatisfying and anti-climactic. I did not dislike the book but feel it fell short of the hype.
LeslieLindsay More than 1 year ago
Rare and enchanting (fairy) tale about magic, gruesomeness, women, and so much more, WHAT SHOULD BE WILD is dark, sublimely written, and spellbinding. I quickly fell under the spell of Julia Fine's debut, WHAT SHOULD BE WILD (Harper, May 2018) which is such a unique read it's really a challenge on how to classify. We're talking a gorgeous setting filled with trees, mysterious elements, an old ancestral home, and magical realism. There is so much going on in WHAT SHOULD BE WILD--at heart, it's a coming-of-age story, but it's also an abduction tale, an allegory, and just darn good writing. Maisie Cothay is a special girl--not only because she was born of a dead mother, but because she comes from a long line of cursed women, going back to 591 AD. Maisie has never known the touch of human flesh--she was born with the power to kill or resurrect at her slightest touch--and therefore has been sequestered to her mother's ancestral home at the edge of the wood and raised by her anthropologist father. Peter Cothay sees Maisie more as an experiment than daughter and has warned her of venturing into the woods. [Maisie is 16]. Local folks speak of strange occurrences in the forest, people disappearing, etc. but what Maisie doesn't know is her female ancestors have all vanished in these woods, never to emerge again. And then her father goes missing. Maisie must venture out to find him. This is where that classic hero's tale emerges, bringing forth the spirit of allegory, a dark, twisty atmosphere, and also the what it means to be a woman in our society. I found the writing absolutely glimmered and Fine's imagination is brilliantly dark, magical, and stunningly extraordinary. The backstory of the historical women enticed me most and I loved how far back (591 AD) we were able to 'travel.' But there were times I felt a little lost in what was happening within the narrative--this could have just been me not picking up on subtlety--WHAT SHOULD BE WILD is a study in literary layering, and is strikingly unique. Those who enjoy Alice Hoffman's work will enjoy WHAT SHOULD BE WILD; it's a bit SLEEPING BEAUTY meets THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT (Kate Hamer), with a slight touch of CANTERBURY TALES meets IN THE HOUSE IN THE DARK OF THE WOODS (Laird Hunt). Truly a literary masterpiece with a touch of magical realism. L.Lindsay Always with a Book
mweinreich More than 1 year ago
3.5 dark fantasy stars You can follow my reviews here on my blog https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres... Maisie has the power of life or death. She is a young girl grown to adulthood without being able to be touched or to touch others for her touch brings both death and life. She is hidden away with her father, Peter, an anthropologist, who tries to investigate the woods that surround their home and bring with it a hidden curse. The women in Maisie's family have vanished into the woods for countless number of years and although her father uses Maisie as more of an experiment, he does not tell her of the dangers that lurk within this dark and mysterious woods. Men have traveled into these woods and when they return, if indeed they do, they bear stories that are both strange and bordering on the bizarre. What Maisie's father knows is that women in the line of this family have been disappearing for a thousand years. He forbids Maisie from ever venturing into the woods. He does love her even though he can never touch her, hold her, or offer her any kind of physical comfort. When her father, Peter, goes missing, Maisie must venture into a world she has been kept away from. She needs to find Peter, but the woods though keep calling to her, anxious for her return. When she returns will she be ale to find the self that she has become? Can she live with her power and the wild nature of the woods that surround her both in the physical and the mystical world? Can Maisie be the one who is above to banish the curse that has plagued her family? This was a dark tale, one of mystery and one that made the reader think about folklore and how the practices of ancient times have come down to us today. Thank you to Julia Fine, Harper Collins, and Edelweiss for providing an ARC of this enigmatic novel.