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What Should Be Wild
Cover of What Should Be Wild
What Should Be Wild
A Novel

"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.

"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.

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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.

Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    December 1, 2017

    Born with a touch that can kill or resurrect, Maisie grows up isolated at her father's manor, told that men who wander into the nearby woods return with their minds shattered. She doesn't know that her female ancestors routinely vanished in the woods, but she has to do somethingwhen her father disappears. A big debut; with a 40,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    March 1, 2018
    A debut novel spins a fairy tale about the power and terror of female desire.Sixteen-year-old Maisie Cothay leads an isolated existence. She was born with a rare talent: Her touch can kill living things and resurrect the dead. As a result, her mother died while Maisie was in utero, and she grows up at Urizon--her ancestral home, which has "a reputation for tragedy"--with only her academic father and a housekeeper for company. Maisie knows that something is cursed in her history: The portraits of her ancestors that line the halls come with legends and rumors about the "bedeviled family line." Many of these stories involve the nearby forest Maisie grew up fearing, warned by her father to never enter. But when Maisie's father disappears, leaving only a strange old map as a clue to his whereabouts, Maisie is convinced that the forest is the key to finding him. As Maisie ventures into the wider world for the first time, she must learn who can be trusted and, finally, via the mysterious woods, must reckon with the true nature of her own gifts and the cursed women in her lineage. Fine, too, looks to the past: Everything from the setting to the elegantly formal prose seems lifted from a 19th-century fairy tale--so much so that it can break the spell somewhat when characters refer to their sneakers or a recycling bin. The novel, with its mysterious forest and Maisie's creative/destructive powers, works well as an allegory of a certain kind of traditional womanly experience of burgeoning sexuality, knowledge, and growing up; though not all female-identifying readers may see themselves here, the poise and skill with which the story unfolds is an undeniable pleasure.Fine has written an old-fashioned book with contemporary resonances.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 23, 2018
    Fine’s stellar debut is a mystical combination of curiosity, curses, and compassion. Maisie Cothay possesses the ability to slay and bring back to life with just her touch. As a fetus she kills her mother, Laurie, early in the pregnancy, though Laurie’s body remains functional until Maisie’s birth in 1990. Maisie’s father, Peter, is an anthropologist fascinated by the myths surrounding Laurie’s bloodline, which includes a history of disappearing women. At the center of the mystery is Urizon, an estate next to a magical forest. At 16, Maisie is painfully aware of the secret she must contain, obediently following her father’s rules, such as avoiding touching living beings and staying away from the forest. Her sheltered life is shattered when Peter goes missing, leaving Maisie to embark on a rescue mission into the woods with Matthew, the nephew of a family friend. Within the forest’s dangerous, tangled maze is a group of women trapped in limbo, hoping for passage to the next world, as well as a shadow person waiting for Maisie. Fine creates an entirely new twist on the familiar setup of a young woman facing supernatural obstacles while trying to balance her own blossoming youth. This is an inventive and fascinating modern coming-of-age fairy tale.

  • School Library Journal

    July 1, 2018

    Maisie Cothay has never known the warmth of a hug, a kiss from a parent, or even a firm handshake. The slightest touch of Maisie's skin will kill the living and resurrect the dead. Her father, an anthropologist, has kept her away from society in order to experiment with and track her abilities. The Cothays live in a secluded family estate surrounded by cursed woods. When Maisie's father goes missing, a clue points to the woods, and when she enters the cursed forest, a mystical world awaits beyond the safety of the estate. This fast-paced, imaginative, and intriguing tale will grip readers. VERDICT Libraries will find this realistic fantasy novel hard to keep on their shelves.-Amanda LeMay, Neptune Township Public Library, NJ

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry "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."
  • Everdeen Mason, Washington Post "A modern fairy tale... Fine's story is a barely restrained, careful musing on female desire, loneliness and hereditary inheritances."
  • Tom Shippey, Wall Street Journal "The Brothers Grimm gave us the fairy tales; many years later Tanith Lee gave us 'Tales From the Sisters Grimmer.' In this astonishing debut, Ms. Fine bids fair to be the Sister Grimmest."
  • Michael Berry, San Francisco Chronicle "A rich blend of myth and modernity, [and] intricately contrived feminist fantasy, 'What Should Be Wild' explores the urges of the body, the nature of desire and the power of the spirit. The novel offers ample portions of adventure, suspense and humor and marks the arrival of a formidable new talent."
  • Family Circle "A surreally feministic tale.... Enchanting, menacing and darkly humorous, it explores women's power and powerlessness throughout the ages. To be tamed and controlled, to be untamed and fierce—and feared."
  • Leni Zumas, author of Red Clocks "What Should Be Wild is a Gothic stunner for the 21st century—provocative, luxuriant, unsettling. Prepare to be mesmerized."
  • Chicago Magazine "Without hyperbole, it's one of the best debut novels I've ever read."
  • Elena Nicolaou, Refinery 29 "A wonderful addition to that genre of lyrical, poetic fantasies, akin to fairy tales in their delicacy and adjacency to the real world."
  • Southern Living "Julia Fine's dynamic new novel What Should Be Wild is a darkly comic tale with doses of magic and suspense."
  • Josh Malerman, author of Bird Box and Black Mad Wheel "Julia Fine is an exciting, excellent writer. And her voice, in What Should Be Wild, says, unspoken, what we all want so badly to hear when we pick up a new book: Let me tell you a story... one you won't want to end."
  • Sara Cutaia, Chicago Review of Books "Has all the ingredients of a Gothic fairy tale, but expounds upon them in fantastic and modern ways. It's gorgeous and exhilarating... written in stunning prose, with an urgency that demands the fullest attention, not unlike the magical fiction of Karen Russell or Helene Wecker."
  • Library Journal, starred review "Imaginative and haunting, a stylistic blend of Matthew Haig's How To Stop Time, Melissa Albert's The Hazel Wood, and Téa Obreht's The Tiger's Wife."
  • Matthew Jackson, BookPage "A captivating tale that explores the fears, desires and mysteries of growing up.... Fine begins with elements we all recognize... and delightfully warps them until a new tale emerges. Maisie is a complex heroine worthy of the story's luxurious prose.... Fine [has a] gift for walking the tightrope between the universal truths of human experience and the hidden magic within those truths."
  • Hello Giggles "A smart, dark fiction read with a magical twist."
  • Publishers Weekly, starred review "Fine's stellar debut is a mystical combination of curiosity, curses, and compassion.... An inventive and fascinating modern coming-of-age fairy tale."
  • Annie Hartnett, author of Rabbit Cake "What Should Be Wild is a grim, beautiful book that you won't be able to put down. It's a thrilling fairytale that will give you the chills, will make you wonder what's really hidden in the forest. Julia Fine writes with enormous imagination, and her first novel is a feast."
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