In the spring of 1844, American naturalist Henry David Thoreau accidentally set fire to 300 acres of woods near Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. The consequences of this fire, told through the lives of four main characters, form the narrative heart of the novel.
Woodsburner interweaves the story of Thoreau, a young pencil maker by trade; Oddmund Hus, a Norwegian immigrant and farmhand who pines for the love of a woman he cannot have; bookseller Eliot Calvert, an aspiring but unsuccessful playwright who must choose between his business and his art;
and Caleb Dowdy, an opium-addicted minister who believes he can prove God's existence by seeking his own damnation. All four men are leading lives of quiet desperation when their encounter with Thoreau's fire changes them forever.
Combining fiction and history, Woodsburner chronicles these changed lives against the background of a final compellling character, the fire itself, which gains a powerful personality as it progresses toward the town and eats away at the Concord landscape.
New York Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
The Massachusetts Center for the Book Fiction Award
The Texas Institute of Letters Steven Turner First Novel Prize
"Marvelous. . . . In this compelling homage to an iconic American writer, Pipkin may himself have just written a new American classic."