Gone From These Woods Reviews

"Daniel's nickname, D-Man, came from his Uncle Clay, who has been more of a father to him than the boy's mean, beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking dad. One fall morning, Clay gives his nephew his Granddaddy's shotgun and they go out to bag a few rabbits. Daniel's queasiness about hunting is embarrassing, so he tries to mask his qualms, and, concentrating only on his relief at escaping detection, inadvertently shoots Clay. The 11-year-old's first-person narrative of the ensuing trauma describes a community doing its best to understand the accident and support the boy, except for his abusive father. Even as his mother, teacher, neighbor, school counselor, and friends attempt to help Daniel return to normal, guilt overwhelms him. Metaphors and similes abound, in fitting with the folksy rural Georgia setting but never outstripping the logical vocabulary of a kid, and giving the narrative a somewhat ordinary flavor despite the horrific events. Understanding or coping with an accidental death is seldom so directly connected to real responsibility or the need to make peace with such a mistake. Seagraves shows the best way for support to be given as well as how hard it is to forgive. These are tough topics to read about, but the book will bring up many discussions. An appendix provides statistics on gun violence and a list of sources to contact for more information."
-Carol A. Edwards
Denver Public Library
"There is a lot of complexity in this coming-of-age nove. Sensitive younger readers will be drawn in by Daniel's story, which can be likened to a more emotional twin of Gary Paulsen's Hatchet."
-Booklist
"A dramatic story, and Seagraves sets it up effectively . . . a useful introduction to the devastating truth that an unintended and momentary mistake can change lives forever."
-The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Recommended
"Depicts a realistic portrayal of grief from a youth's perspective . . . Boys will take interest in Daniel's internal superhero-vs.-villain battle"
-Kirkus Reviews
"The dynamics of the Sartain family are well-developed and genuine as a result of Daniel's authentic first-person narration. Seagraves's debut should leave readers weighing death, guilt and forgiveness."
-Publisher's Weekly
"How refreshing to find a novel that young people can read that doesn't contain wizards or fantastical creatures who may or may not help kids learn to successfully navigate our complex modern world. Gone from These Woods takes a difficult family situation that turns even worse through accidental gun violence, and makes sense of how to manage hard issues and come out with livable solutions in the end. In America we prize our guns yet we often give little attention to what happens when things go horribly wrong with unintended consequences -- especially for our young folk. Having read before a few of Ms. Seagraves' magazine articles, I was interested to see how she would treat this complicated, sad subject in the longer form of a novel, and I'm pleased to say that pre-teens and teens, parents, and teachers can take away much practical advice and hope from this well-told tale."
-Jude Cowell
"This is a story that will remain in your head and heart, after you turn the last page: How does a child find the courage to live through the worst that can happen? In her gripping debut novel, author Donny Bailey Seagraves introduces Daniel Sartain, a good-natured fifth-grader living in the rural South. Daniel reluctantly agrees to learn to hunt because he wants to be a "real" Sartain man to please his fun-loving uncle, Clay. But when Daniel finds a small rabbit in the family forest, he cannot force himself to pull the trigger, even though he knows he's disappointing his uncle. For a deadly second, Daniel forgets the rules of safe hunting that Clay taught him and he staggers to his feet with the loaded shotgun in his arms. The fun discharges, and a pellet penetrates Clay's heart, instantly killing him. Awash in grief and guilt, Daniel tries to process this terrible event, with the support of his loving mom and an understanding school counselor. But his alcoholic father -- miserable and mean because of his own guilty feelings about a deadly car accident -- taunts the boy until Daniel decides to commit suicide rather than risk becoming an abusive, hateful man like his dad. In the end, Daniel is rescued by the strength that he finds in his own heart. This is a thoughtful story that will leave the reader with a deeper understanding of life's painful moments and how a person summons the wisdom to handle them."
-Gail Langer Karwoski
Author
"The book cover captures your attention right away and after reading this book, you look back at the cover and empathize with the young man and know what he must be thinking as he gazes into the woods from the trail. Daniel is a boy, not unlike any other boy who grows up in the rural South. But one single tragedy, one single unexpected event changes him forever. The story is powerful, but the beauty of this book is found in the excellent character development and the revealing, illuminative dialogue.The author has created a story that fits into the young adult genre, but most certainly can be read and enjoyed by a wide range of ages. I found myself thinking about the underlying implications of the tragedy and how the event will shape Daniel, his family, and the relationships among the family members for years to come. Somehow the reader knows that the story is not over for all who share in the event and for this reason this book will leave the reader wanting to check in on the family in the years to come."
-Doug H.
"This is Donny Bailey Seagraves' first published book and after you read it, you're going to want to read everything she publishes. The story is well-written. I was crying at the first part of the book because I felt so sad for the main character (don't want to give anything away) and at the end of the book because it had such a great resolution. Ms. Seagraves captures rural Georgia to a tee and you'd think she actually was an eleven-year-old boy the way she describes him and expresses his emotions."
-Laurel Rudolph
Author
"My 10-year-old son and I enthusiastically read this book together in no time. He absolutely loved it and would read ahead; so I would have to catch up. We could not wait to see what happened next. As a matter of fact, my son said, "When is the sequel coming out?" I found myself completely wrapped up with this young boy. Gone From These Woods is truly a heart-felt story of overcoming loss and tragedy. We loved it."
-Pam Brooks-Crump
Parent
"In the space of the first two pages, I found myself completely caught up in deliberating as, I imagined Daniel was, about hunting and Clay and Dad and living beings. Big questions arrive immediately in the form of specifics like whether to do what those you love do and want you to do. And how to care for those who are easy to love and those who have become barely tolerable? Putting this book/story/character in the midst of his life aside to sweep or prepare lunch was difficult for me. I wanted only to read and read. But then we all have others to consider. This story dives deep into the layered texture of a boy's life and then the moving through and beyond what seems impossible -- even death and fear and what is yet unknown. A week after reading this book, I am still thinking of the characters and interactions woven into their story and now into me. Excellent reading experience for young and old."
-Jane Penland Hoover
Writer and Writing Coach
"Winterville writer Donny Bailey Seagraves' debut novel, Gone From These Woods, tenderly and realistically explores Daniel's grief, the attempts of his young friends and guidance counselor to bring him back to normalcy, and his compassionate mother trying to hold her family together while working night shifts at the carpet mill. Booklist calls the story "an emotional twin" of Gary Paulsen's Newbery Honor-award winning Hatchet. Seagraves' first bookstore signing will be August 30 at Borders. While the intended audience is middle-school students, the book's authentic Southern voice and richly detailed characters offers universal appeal."
-Mary Jessica Hammes, Journalist, Writer, Blogger & More
Athens Banner-Herald
Author Donny Bailey Seagraves speaking at Borders Bookstore.

"It's always a pleasure to promote a new book from a friend, but it's a special pleasure for me to tell you about a wonderful new book called Gone From These Woods by my friend Donny Seagraves, who lives near Athens in the small town of Winterville. I've known Donny for nearly 30 years and was her first editor at the old Athens Observer, back when it was an award-winning progressive newspaper and not the sad sack it became in the last few years before it folded. Donny one day out of the blue brought me some editorial columns to consider, and they were wonderful, and we published them. During the decades after that, she has been a consistent and vocal supporter of my work, so it's a joy to tell you about her own very first book, just out from Delacorte Press (a division of Random House) in New York. The book is for middle-school-age readers and just above, though anyone including adults, can read it with pleasure and profit. Teh plot surrounds the events that occur after a tragic hunting accident and the effect it has on a family in a small town. That might sound fairly simple, but in Donny's hands, it's anything but an easy situation to write about. I read every page, and I just loved it. She delves deeply into the moral complexities of guilt and family love and she does it with subtlety and intelligence, and with a command of language that is admirable. Frankly, I can't imagine anything harder than writing for this specific audience, because many of them are confused, a bit edgy, and afraid to venture far from received ideas. Donny does a masterful job of creating characters, especially young Daniel Sartain and his grieving family. She understands grief from the inside, but even more impressive, she understands how adolescents struggle with self-identity and how they need loving adults to help them steer the way to adulthood. Perhaps most important, she has a level-headed and pragmatic position on hunting that gives the narrative a moral weight. It would have been easy for her to condemn the whole "sport," as a dwindling piece of American history with no place in the here and now. But she doesn't do that. She understands the deep nexus of associations that hunting holds among many fine people and why it is something fathers and mothers still pass down to sons and daughters. To have written a book of such moral weight and complexity and to teach without being preachy are magnificent achievements. Go buy this book. Give it to a family with youngsters or without. This book, will be a gift that will be passed from parents to children and on and on for generations."he

-Philip Lee Williams, Author

"My name is Morgan Jenkins, a 6th grader in Arvada, Colorado. I just finished your book, Gone From These Woods, and wanted to comment on your writing. I loved this book, and one of the things I really liked is how you never mentioned any bad words D-Man's dad said. Thank you for that."

-Morgan Jenkins

"Eleven-year-old Daniel "D-Man" Sartain would do anything to please his favorite uncle, his friend. Even get up early on a cold November morning and traipse through the thick Georgia woods, a .410 shotgun in his trembling hands. Uncle Clay says it is time for D-Man to learn to hunt. D-Man's not so sure. Still, he doesn't want to disappoint his uncle and the many other male Sartain ancestors who had once hunted in these same piney woods. D-Man tries to act tough; he takes aim and prepares to fire. His first hunt. His first kill. But then things go dreadfully wrong, changing his life forever. Donny Bailey Seagraves's debut novel is riveting. The emotional struggles that the tormented eleven-year-old boy must cope with will resonate with young readers. It is the type of book that boys and girls will not want to stop reading until it is finished."

-Cynthia Crain, author

"Good book. My son enjoyed reading it, it was required reading, but was not boring for him to read. He did well on the test."

-Robin S., Parent

"Tough issues sensitively handled. Seagraves tackles the tough issues of accidental death, forgiveness, and contemplation of suicide, and does it in a very thoughtful and sensitive way. Her characters are true to life, and her plot suspenseful. This would make a wonderful teaching tool at the middle school level, and would promote lively class discussions."

-Jane Nixon White

"Readers (9-12 and beyond) can find a way to relate to this story even if you are not a hunter, avid comic book reader or an 11-year-old boy. Most of us will have to endure losing close loved ones within our lifetimes and this book shows you how to keep going and rise up out of grief and despair when faced with that situation. In Daniel's case, it happens to teach him at a very young age and as a tragic accident involving himself, a .410 shotgun, his favorite person in the world, Uncle Clay, and a rabbit, rather than the usual progression of time. Donny Bailey Seagraves has mastered character development -- there are moments in the book where I am very worried for Daniel and on the edge of my seat wanting to tell him to never point that gun at himself. There are also moments where the sadness of the accident and his family situation bring me to tears. I'm relieved to know that he has such a wonderful, supportive mom that is his guardian who will stop at nothing to make sure her child finds a way to make it through this tough time. I am also impressed with how the school guidance counselor interacts with Daniel to help him work through the states of grief. Even at Daniel's young age, he is wise enough to make the choice to be like his role model, Uncle Clay, rather than his mean alcoholic father, Ray. The North Georgia woods, where the accident happens, and also where Daniel escapes from his abusive dad while fighting off villainous despair are a character, too. I hear, smell and see them all at once throughout the story. Honestly, it's really hard to put this one down once you begin reading. I urge you to begin and see what bits of powerful wisdom you can take away from this worthwhile read."

-J. Seagraves

"Wonderfully done and an excellent read! A hard subject handled wonderfully . . . I like that the author doesn't shy away from the topic of Daniel's depression and his thoughts of suicide. A great read and an important read for young adults. Teachers should embrace this book, the teaching/school community is wonderfully portrayed, very supportive of what Daniel is going through. You can tell that Ms. Seagraves is from the Young Adult Education world. Highly recommended!!!

-Reader of Books
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