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LIVE ON CROWDCAST: DIANE COOK, author of THE NEW WILDERNESS, in conversation with JANE MARIE

*Please note: This event will take place live on Crowdcast. RSVP here to save your spot!

The New Wilderness (Harper)

"The New Wilderness is a virtuosic debut, brutal and beautiful in equal measure."
—Emily St. John Mandel, New York Times bestselling author of Station Eleven

Margaret Atwood meets Miranda July in this wildly imaginative debut novel of a mother's battle to save her daughter in a world ravaged by climate change; A prescient and suspenseful book from the author of the acclaimed story collection, MAN V. NATURE

Bea’s five-year-old daughter, Agnes, is slowly wasting away, consumed by the smog and pollution of the overdeveloped metropolis that most of the population now calls home. If they stay in the city, Agnes will die. There is only one alternative: the Wilderness State, the last swath of untouched, protected land, where people have always been forbidden. Until now. 

Bea, Agnes, and eighteen others volunteer to live in the Wilderness State, guinea pigs in an experiment to see if humans can exist in nature without destroying it. Living as nomadic hunter-gatherers, they slowly and painfully learn to survive in an unpredictable, dangerous land, bickering and battling for power and control as they betray and save one another. 

But as Agnes embraces the wild freedom of this new existence, Bea realizes that saving her daughter’s life means losing her in a different way. The farther they get from civilization, the more their bond is tested in astonishing and heartbreaking ways. 

At once a blazing lament of our contempt for nature and a deeply humane portrayal of motherhood and what it means to be human, The New Wilderness is an extraordinary novel from a one-of-a-kind literary force.

Praise for The New Wilderness:

"An absolutely riveting and propulsive novel. Terrifying, and as real as can be. Epic in scale and story; granular and recognisable in people and place. The New Wilderness is surely an instant classic in our stories of survival, sovereignty and adaptation. Cook's writing is so sure-footed, prescient and trustworthy, it's all the reader can do to follow her. For fans of Ling Ma's Severance and Hernan Diaz's In the Distance, and many, many readers in between." --Caoilinn Hughes (Orchid & the Wasp/The Wild Laughter) 

THE NEW WILDERNESS left me as stunned as a deer in headlights. Gut-wrenching and heart-wrecking, this is a book that demands to be read, and urgently. With beauty and compassion, Diane Cook writes about the precariousness of life on this planet, about the things that make us human — foremost the love between mothers and daughters, at once complex and elemental. Cook observes humanity as a zoologist might — seeing us exactly as the strange animals we really are.”--Rachel Khong, author of GOODBYE, VITAMIN

“Diane Cook upends old tropes of autonomy, survival, and civilization to reveal startling new life teeming beneath, giving a glimpse into the ways the world we think we know could come unstuck and come to life in the care of the women and girls of the future. This is not just a thrilling, curious, vibrant book--but an essential one, a compass to guide us into the future.”--Alexandra Kleeman, author of YOU TOO CAN HAVE A BODY LIKE MINE

“The emotional core of the story is the relationship between Bea and Agnes, whose perspectives drive the narrative. It’s a damning piece of horror cli-fi, but it’s also a gripping and profound examination of love and sacrifice.”--Buzzfeed

“Violence, death, tribalism, lust, love, betrayals, wonder, genius, and courage—all are enacted in this stunningly incisive and complexly suspenseful tale akin to dystopian novels by Margaret Atwood and Claire Vaye Watkins. When Cook finally widens the lens on her characters' increasingly desperate predicament, the exposure of malignant greed, deceit, and injustice resonates with devastating impact.”--Donna Seaman, Booklist (Starred Review)

“A wry, speculative debut novel. . .Cook’s unsettling, darkly humorous tale explores maternal love and man’s disdain for nature with impressive results.”--Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“The novel tackles the deepest of human emotions—as well as big ideas about the planet—in satisfying ways. Also, it’s a page-turner!”--LitHub

“A wonderfully imagined … tense future-shock novel.”--2020 Booker Prize Judges

“Cook writes about desperate people in a world of ever shrinking livable space and increasingly questionable resources like air and water but also about the resilience of children who adapt, even enjoying circumstances that overwhelm the adults around them. Cook also raises uncomfortable questions: How far will a person go to survive, and what sacrifices will she or won’t she make for those she loves?This ecological horror story (particularly horrifying now) explores painful regions of the human heart.”--Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"The New Wilderness strips us of our veneer of civilisation and exposes us for what we are: driven to survive, capable of shocking cruelty and profound, fierce love. This story of what a mother does to save her daughter is unflinching, horrifying, forgiving, deeply moving, and filled with truth that stayed with this mother long after the final page."--Helen Sedgwick, author of The Comet Seekers and When the Dead Come Calling

Diane Cook's fiction has been published in Harper's MagazineGrantaTin HouseZoetropeOne StoryGuernica, and elsewhere. Her nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times Magazine and on This American Life, where she worked as a radio producer for six years. She earned an MFA from Columbia University, where she was a Teaching Fellow. She lives in Oakland, California.

Jane Marie is a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning journalist who produced This American Life for nearly a decade before becoming an independent content creator. She is the host of the Little Everywhere & Stitcher original documentary podcast The Dream and the official Tinder podcast by Gimlet Creative, DTR. As a writer, Jane served as an editor for Jezebel and The Hairpin, penned columns for various sites including The Toast and Cosmopolitan and collaborated with outlets including Epic MagazineEarwolf and PBS. She lives in LA with her daughter, Goldie.

Event date: 
Thursday, August 20, 2020 - 6:30pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
The New Wilderness Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9780062333131
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper - August 11th, 2020

Man V. Nature: Stories Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780062333117
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial - October 6th, 2015