Muir Woods Or Bust, by Ian Woollen
Muir Woods Or Bust (216 pages) is a work of literary fiction and social satire by Ian Woollen. In a near future plagued by global weather weirding, a psychologist is forced by a manic actor to travel from Bloomington, Indiana, to California for the sake of an audition.
Muir Woods or Bust won a bronze in the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards, Humor category.
Woollen’s most recent novel, Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb, was shortlisted for the Balcones Prize. His first novel, Stakeout on Millennium Drive, won the 2006 Best Book of Indiana Fiction Award. His short fiction has surfaced in a variety of journals, including The Massachusetts Review, Fiction Southeast, The Smokelong Quarterly, and The Mid-American Review, from which he received a Sherwood Anderson Prize.
“Muir Woods deftly threads modern environmental anxieties and gaming sensibilities into a story inspired by nature advocate John Muir, and binds them together with humor, playfulness, and a great, great deal of heart. This is the third Ian Woollen novel I have read, and I never fail to be struck by the deep but messy love his characters have for each other, and how they always muddle through and come out on the other side imperfect, but redeemed. In a time in which the daily news tends to leave me overwhelmed with anxiety and cynicism, Muir Woods offered a fun, thoughtful and welcome reminder not only to have faith in, but to absolutely relish our shared, flawed humanity.” Read more….
“Part zany road (and air and rail) trip, part social commentary, part family drama, part ghost story (Gil talks to his late wife, an Earth Liberation Front operative), readers experience not a dull moment during Woollen’s jam-packed second novel. It’s really three books in one, as Chum’s video game plot and Gil’s Muir memoir feature in the narrative. And it’s ours, too, as Woollen invites us to take an inner journey with him and his cast. We won’t return the same.” Read more….
—Mari’s Book Reviews
“There’s never been a more welcoming time in America than now for irreverent social satire, such as embraced by Ian Woollen’s latest called Muir Woods Or Bust. It winks and grins slyly as you determine to pick it up, a premonition of what you’ll soon be engaged in doing. I certainly welcome Woollen’s earthy, ground-shaking wit on display in its pages and you likely will also. [….] Woollen’s novel upends the classic road trip with two farces of road trips, neither what you could ever expect, and that’s the beauty of it. I had no idea that all this zaniness would transform and snap-awake the mentally-stuck characters, somewhat like it could for the hapless environment stuck with a bad press, it seems to me. Muir Woods Or Bust, take the stage, please!” Read more….
—Jan Peregrine for CompulsiveReader.com
As the 21st century lurches forward, weather weirdness abounds, begetting the rise of a new psychiatric syndrome: Eco-Mood Disorders. Or so psychologist Gil Moss believes. Of course, Gil is also hallucinating visits from his recently deceased wife, an Earth Liberation Front activist. And from 19th-century environmentalist John Muir.
Abducted at gunpoint by Doyle Wentworth, an elderly client who played John Muir in a satirical, anti-environmental FAUX-TV miniseries, Gil journeys westward via freight train, private jet, and stolen automobile, aided and pursued by colorful figures from Gil’s and Doyle’s pasts. Destination: Muir Woods and the auditions for the revival of Yosemite Yahoos. Soon after Gil leaves Bloomington, Indiana, his reclusive son Chum is also dragged west by Gil’s former student Amanda to pitch his video game Phantom Vampire to Amanda’s billionaire ex.
A vision quest for the ages. Gil wants to tell you all about it, including the story of his great-great-aunt healing young John Muir from a grisly blinding in an industrial accident in 1867. But computer problems and selective amnesia have stymied Gil’s attempts. Until this unexpected cross-country spree leads him, and his fellow travelers, to their true callings.
Says Woollen, “Part of our family lore is the story of how an ancestor nursed environmentalist John Muir back to health after an accident. Musing over this and other John Muir tales I’ve heard over the years, I slowly hatched a scheme for a tragicomic novel that recasts Muir’s saga as the quixotic, cross-country journey of a contemporary Everyperson. Until recent current events began overtaking the climate-fiction side of the novel at an alarming rate.”
Ian Woollen was born and raised in Indianapolis and now lives nearby in Bloomington, Indiana, where he works as a psychotherapist. He has a BA from Yale University and an MA from Christian Theological Seminary. Click here to find Ian online.
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