From School Library Journal
Grade 4–6—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, CO
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.-Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library, CO
—School Library Journal
There is a lot of complexity in this short, quiet coming-of-age novel. 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
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.
This satisfactory debut novel depicts a realistic portrayal of grief from a youth’s perspective. Middle-grade boys will take interest in Danny’s internal superhero-vs.-villain battle. —Kirkus
It’s a dramatic story, and Seagraves sets it up effectively: Daniel’s reluctance to hunt in the first place merely adds to his guilt. —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Donny Bailey Seagraves’ Gone From These Woods tells of pre-teen Daniel whose uncle dies during a rabbit hunting trip in the woods. Daniel tries to survive the loss of his role model and best friend — and must find a way to go on in this poignant saga.-Midwest Book Review
Seagraves tackles the tough issues of accidental death, guilt, 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.–Dr. Jane Nixon White
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 Georgian 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’ 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.
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 liveable 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 matter 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
An excellent read! A hard subject handled wonderfully . . . I like that the author doesn’t shy away form 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!!!–A Reader of Books
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
My son enjoyed reading this book. It was required reading but was not boring for hime to read. He did well on the test.–Robin S
If it was up to Daniel Sartain, he wouldn’t hunt. Killing an innocent animal is cruel and unnecessary. But when you’re an 11-year-old member of the Sartain family, not learning to hunt it out of the question. His favorite uncle and role model, Clay, takes Daniel deep into the woods to hunt rabbits. But when Daniel chickens out, he does something a whole lot worse than kill a rabbit. With his .410 shotgun ready to fire, he stands up, forgetting his hand is still on the trigger. The shotgun blasts. One minute Clay is standing next to Daniel, dishing out words of encouragement, and the next he’s face down in a pile of straw, bleeding from a chest wound. From that fateful day onward, Daniel grieves and blames himself for Clay’s death. Accident or not, he killed his uncle, his favorite person in the world, the man he aspired to be just like one day. But now he’s gone, cut off after his short 22 years of life. Daniel can’t shake off the painful thoughts of Clay. He can’t enjoy a home-cooked meal, or time with his friends, or even Christmas. While Daniel’s deadbeat dad drinks and smokes to mask the pain, Daniel contemplates a quicker way to end his life. But is suicide a punishment for what’s he’s done or a way to stop the pain? Gone From These Woods is a delicate, painful, depressing and enlightening story. The author really captures the stages of grief perfectly — everything from denial and guilt to anger and acceptance. Losing a loved one is the hardest thing in the world. But with time, the painful wounds will heal. Rating: 4 Stars out of Five.–Kidzworld.com
In her debut novel, Gone From These Woods, Winterville resident and author Donny Bailey Seagraves paints a raw portrait of a family that’s nearly torn apart by grief and guilt. Eleven-year-old Daniel is reluctant to embark upon his first hunting trip with his beloved Uncle Clay, but he’s been deemed grown up enough to shoot and kill his first rabbit. When he accidentally discharges his rifle, Daniel’s world transforms beyond recognition. Seagraves perfectly depicts the moment the gun goes off, “kicking against (his) arm like something alive.”; Daniel’s sense of dread and disbelief upon seeing Uncle Clay falling into the Georgia pine straw is palpable. Gone From These Woods is a gripping, emotional story of a child whose overwhelming sense of responsibility threatens to suffocate him. Many around him, including his alcoholic father, aren’t willing or able to give him the support he needs so desperately, causing Daniel to spiral toward depression. Ultimately, once he lets down the guard he’s held up since the morning he left for the hung, Daniel is able to find some hope and healing. This is an excellent book for guided reading in class groups or middle-reader book clubs. Seagraves deftly deals with some heavy-hitting emotional and family issues while remaining accessible to middle schoolers.–Janet Geddis, Athens Magazine
Gone From These Woods, by Donny Seagraves, is an engaging book that once you start reading, you can’t stop . . at least, I couldn’t! In my opinion, Gone From These Woods is a unique, fresh book; I have never read another book like it! Because this book has a lot to do with guns, the author, Donny Seagraves, actually took a gun-shooting class from the Winterville police chief (I learned this at this book’s first book-signing event at Border’s bookstore in Athens, Georgia). The police chief and Donny Seagraves actually went into the woods and reenacted the scene in chapter one, to help her get the feel as to what she was writing. So I think that she is qualified to write t his book; if she isn’t, she sure fooled me!. . .
Read the rest of the above book summary and review of Gone From These Woods by Sydney Hancock, granddaughter of the real life “boy who accidentially shot his uncle.”