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."
"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."
"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."
"Depicts a realistic portrayal of grief from a youth's perspective . . . Boys will take interest in Daniel's internal superhero-vs.-villain battle"
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."