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At the Edge of the Woods

a novel by
Kathryn Bromwich

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At the Edge of the Woods a novel by KATHRYN BROMWICH

* A "Best Book of 2023" —Independent Book Review
* An American Booksellers Association "Indies Introduce" Pick!

Haunting, gorgeously descriptive, and spellbinding, At the Edge of the Woods is a magnificent and assured debut novel that delivers all the resonance and significance of an instant classic.

Laura lives alone in a cabin deep within the Italian Alps, making her living translating medical documents and tutoring the children of affluent locals. She spends her days climbing the mountains outside her door and exploring the woods, and when she must venture into the small, conservative town for supplies, she’s met with curious stares and wariness. Laura begins seeing a bartender, who alerts her to the villagers’ uncertainties. Then late one night there is a knock on the door, and on the other side stands someone from her past who has finally found her. In beguiling, lyrical prose, the mystery surrounding why Laura has absconded to this remote corner of the Alps comes into focus, while the villagers grow leery of the woman in the cabin and of her increasingly odd behavior. A few decide to take matters into their own hands, to free themselves from the malevolent forces of the strega who lives amongst them.

With its dexterity and appreciation for the natural world, its slow-burn tension and thematic considerations of illness, femininity and alienation, At the Edge of the Woods calls to mind the work of Richard Powers, Claire-Louise Bennett and Shirley Jackson, while revealing Kathryn Bromwich as a spectacular and singular talent.

Read an excerpt:
Debutiful presents an excerpt from At the Edge of the Woods by Kathryn Bromwich.

Orion Magazine: Recommended reading from author Kathryn Bromwich:
"Beware the Woods: 10 Memorable Forests from Literature"

After you finish reading At the Edge of the Woods, dive into these additional books!


Scroll to bottom for Goodreads reviews, or view Goodreads reviews for At the Edge of the Woods by Kathryn Bromwich

At the Edge of the Woods is an American Booksellers Association "Summer/Fall 2023 Indies Introduce Featured Title"! We are grateful to all of the amazing indie booksellers involved: click below to read the nominating booksellers' thoughts on At the Edge of the Woods:
Read an interview: "An Indies Introduce Q&A with Kathryn Bromwich"
View the Indies Introduce page for At the Edge of the Woods 
>>> View the full list of Summer/Fall 2023 Indies Introduce Featured Titles

"Survival in the natural world, isolation, not having children—I love so much of what Bromwich is able to do with this novel... Still, it’s Browmwich’s effortless nature writing that may shine brightest here. The natural world is captured in gorgeous description... If you read this book, you’ll feel the underlying fear for a woman alone in the woods just as you’ll admire her constant ability to overcome it."
—Jaylynn Korrell, Independent Book Review
"The Best Books We Read in 2023"

"A real page turner." —Listen to hosts Lori Feathers & Sam Jordison, Across the Pond podcast, during an INTERVIEW & AUTHOR READING!
Kathryn Bromwich, "At the Edge of the Woods" (Jun 27, 2023)

"This is a prose poem of a novel, somewhat reminiscent of Eight Mountains by Paolo Cognetti, which in 2022 was made into a movie. It is a meditation as well as a story, a look into a complicated mind that seeks calm and truth. What, ultimately, we all do. I was especially moved by the way Bromwich entwines the story of Laura, a young woman seeking solace, with her surroundings. The weather and terrain are sometimes harsh, but they give her the nourishment she requires. We depend on the natural world to sustain us, but it is very hard to convey that need without resorting to maudlin sentimentality, Or boring litanies about dark mysteries in the forest or the way the light changes on the mountain. To do it well requires a rare talent for observation and an equally rare talent for choosing the exact details. This young writer has a talent for both, and she has written a superb first novel that will stick in your mind long after you have read the last page."
—Roberta Silman, The Arts Fuse
Review: At the Edge of the Woods

"I will be adding At The Edge of the Woods to my pile of beguiling peasant novels that have nature as an active presence (between Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead and Solà’s When I Sing the Mountains Dance)... It is a fascinating thought experiment on how superstition can bring about its own demons—and how rejections of femininity can ignite a hysteria. We are invited to decide how much to read accident as curse and how much curse disguised as coincidence, as stranger things start to happen in proximity to Laura."
—Abi Andrews, Caught by the River
(Read the full review of At the Edge of the Woods)

"A fever dream of a novel with a hothouse atmosphere that’s cranked high, At The Edge of the Woods stands out for authorial bravado. The slim volume might bring to mind stylish literary classics, from Wide Sargasso Sea and Heart of Darkness to Wuthering Heights and Rebecca, but first time U.K. novelist Kathryn Bromwich serves a delectable if bizarre wilderness tale that’s wholly her creation."
—Brett Josef Grubisic, Toronto Star
(Read the full review of At the Edge of the Woods)

"An accomplished, unsettling debut... At the Edge of the Woods is a novel that invites full immersion on the reader’s part; the reward is a deeply unsettling exploration of what it means to inhabit a female body but to reject femininity, and to feel a connection with the natural world that embodies both awe and terror. In this, its themes could not be more timely."
—Stephanie Merritt, The Guardian
"Book of the day, Fiction"

"Bromwich writes stylishly propulsive prose, creating irresistible momentum in a novel whose plot is tangled and exploratory. By its end, At the Edge of the Woods is a portrait of both a profoundly liberated woman and a woman in danger. It is a knife-sharp, haunting novel, a testament in both its content and its origins to what both imagination and meditation can do."
—Lily Meyer, AIR MAIL
INTERVIEW: "How a bout of long COVID during the height of the pandemic gave way to a London editor’s debut novel" (June 3, 2023)

"[Kathryn Bromwich] has spun magic with her debut novel At the Edge of the Woods, a compelling story of a woman who opts to abscond traditional life and move into a cabin in the forests of northern Italy. As leering locals question why she’s there without a man to look after her... she falls into a carnal, stunning relationship with a local waiter, he too alienated by the town. Impactful and transportive stuff."
—Douglas Greenwood, i-D
(Read the full review of At the Edge of the Woods)

"With a deft hand and slow-burn tension, At the Edge of the Woods is a captivating novel for anyone who enjoyed Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller or Strega by Johanne Lykke Holm."
—Damian Barr’s Literary Salon
Podcast Episode: "Book of the Week: At the Edge of the Woods by Kathryn Bromwich"

"Bromwich brings a dash of menace and blurs the line between what is real and unreal, what is imagined and what is there. She immerses the reader in the woods, the idea of escaping and develops it in an unexpected direction. At the Edge of the Woods is a trip; surreal and compelling, subverting the expectation of narrative, of character and of escaping to the woods. Browich’s writing is inspired, with the polished tension of Shirley Jackson, and the prose of Ali Smith or Tove Jansson. She is capable of dazzling beauty amongst a claustrophobic atmosphere."
—Kelsey Ward, Oban Times
(Read the full review of At the Edge of the Woods)

"[At the Edge of the Woods] is one of those books that's going to be in the outer reaches of my brain for a while... I keep thinking back to it..."
—Daniel Ford, Writer's Bone Podcast
INTERVIEW: "Episode 607: Kathryn Bromwich & Hannah Mary McKinnon" (August 31, 2023)

"In this mesmerizing novel, a woman moves to a cabin in the woods, on a mountain at the edge of a town filled with people who regard her with increasing suspicion... Much of the book is concerned with Laura’s immediate experiences of the landscape, which creates a lulling effect, but as in the wilderness, one cannot let themselves become unwary; the beautiful descriptions are soon punctuated by a sharp sense of menace as Laura’s reality begins to deteriorate. This is an unsettling fever dream of a book that I will be thinking about for a long time."
—Emily Temple, LitHub
"The 28 Novels You Need to Read This Summer"

"At The Edge of the Woods is an exceptional debut; uncanny, unsettling, original and subtle. Gradually, it beckons the reader deeper into both its forests and its mysteries; I was reminded at times of the work of Dolores Redondo's Baztan trilogy, and at others of Robert Seethaler's slender chronicles of remote European mountain communities."
Robert Macfarlane, author of Mountains of the Mind, The Wild Places, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, Landmarks, and Underland: A Deep Time Journey

"What I drew most from this novel is a rich exploration of the many alternating ways we attempt to grit our teeth and bear it, to escape, to simultaneously find and hide from ourselves. Bromwich’s writing is quietly powerful and I believe it will resonate with any woman who has ever felt trapped, adrift, or desperate for a fresh start. So, perhaps, all of us."
—Beth Mowbray
(View the full review on Instagram)

"At the Edge of the Woods by Kathryn Bromwich is a spellbinding dream for introverts."
—TeaTime Pictures, "Virgo Szn" Reading List, Instagram

"In this richly evocative debut, a woman has retreated from society to live alone in a cabin in the mountains of northern Italy... A spellbinding story of illness, infertility, the natural world and femininity."
—Gwendolyn Smith, The i
"31 best books to read this summer"

"Extraordinary. What a beautiful, raw and ethereal journey. So much magic and power."
—Maxine Peake

"This novel is an intriguing look at the forces—natural, social, and psychological—that create the figure of the witch. It’s also an allegory that will resonate with any reader who’s ever found themselves in Laura’s double bind, forced to choose between safety and authenticity. In this beautiful, brutal little novel, those readers might find a path forward, even though it’s a dangerous one to tread."
—Julia Glassman, The Mary Sue
(Read the full review of At the Edge of the Woods)

"Through lust and sinuous prose, the novel similarly puts readers under its own spell. It demands that you reach out to others, no matter how isolated they are, and insist that they read what is sure to be an instant classic."
—Rufus Hickok, Bust Magazine
"LitPicks: 3 Unforgettable Literary Treasures Released This Month That Will Enrich Your Summer Reading"
Bust Magazine review of At the Edge of the Woods by Kathryn Bromwich Bust Magazine cover with At the Edge of the Woods by Kathryn Bromwich

"Bromwich's prose is sedately paced, erudite, and textured in its observations of nature. Laura has a sly sense of humor and a deep distrust of humankind. As her story advances, her relationship to reality shifts and slides... At the Edge of the Woods is wise, ethereal, haunting, filled with both beauty and horror. Brief but thoughtful, lush in its descriptions, this is a novel of introspection."
—Julia Kastner, Shelf Awareness
(Read the review of At the Edge of the Woods)

"Bromwich paints Laura and her woods as vibrantly as an old-fashioned fairy tale and this is just as foreboding. Fans of highly interiorized, richly narrated feminist fiction will tear through it."
—Annie Bostrom, Booklist

"Suspense and the mystery of Laura’s persona made At the Edge of the Woods resemble a Gothic Romance intermixed with a loving transcendentalism that would make Ralph Waldo Emerson proud.... This is a novel about the aftermath of trauma, and the mystical places that become available to us when we turn away from society. Laura creates a safe space for herself out of necessity, and many readers will understand this instinct all too well."
—Max Gray, The Chicago Review of Books
(Read the review of At the Edge of the Woods)

"Following a woman living alone in a cabin in the woods, At the Edge of the Woods is built on slow-burn tension and psychological unraveling à la Shirley Jackson meets Strega Nonna in the Italian Alps, and is meant to be slurped and gargled like saltwater."
—Sophia June, NYLON
"June 2023’s Must-Read Book Releases"

"Haunting, gorgeously descriptive, and spellbinding, Kathryn Bromwich has written an incredible gothic debut."
—Michael Welch, Chicago Review of Books
"12 Must-Read Books of June 2023"

"In this haunting debut, a woman running from her past tries to find solitude and independence in the woods. Bromwich’s pacing works brilliantly; languid and slow as we meet Laura a few months into her time in the cabin, comfortable and familiar, before becoming increasingly disjointed and rapid to match her deteriorating mental state. The result is a slow-burning tension that never quite resolves into something like closure but is nonetheless riveting and original. A gripping, richly layered story of a woman’s unraveling as she grapples with threats both past and present."
(Read the review of At the Edge of the Woods)

"Bromwich brilliantly depicts Laura’s experience as only that which a woman can have... This is a book to be remembered."
—Jaylynn Korrell, Independent Book Review, starred
(Read the review of At the Edge of the Woods)

"This book is an absolute stunner. Set in the Italian Alps, we find a woman living alone in a cabin in the woods. Bromwich follows her life with beautiful writing that pairs well with the stark and unsettling plot that unfolds."
—Adam Vitcavage, Debutiful
"Can’t Miss Debut Books You Should Read In June"

Read an excerpt: Debutiful presents an excerpt from At the Edge of the Woods by Kathryn Bromwich.

"A slow burn... portrait of a woman’s communion with an untamed wilderness."
Publishers Weekly
(Read the review of At the Edge of the Woods)

"Bromwich is a terrific writer, and her ability to conjure both overt and covert menace is impressive. Likewise, Laura is fully realized and her lived feminism makes her the epitome of graceful resistance. To Bromwich’s credit, Laura never devolves into a superwoman but is instead a strong, flawed human being... At the Edge of the Woods is simultaneously meditative and unsettling."
—Eleanor J. Bader, The Indypendent
(Read the review of At the Edge of the Woods)

"Throughout Kathryn Bromwich’s debut novel, At the Edge of the Woods, strangeness proliferates... Bromwich quickly entrances readers within her prose that wanders through a woman’s solitude. She hikes everyday, running from something. It is in those trees that Bromwich situates herself as a novelist keen on exploring perceptions, sustenance, and escape into the natural world... With each new iteration of the self, the narrator throws off another layer of pretense. A novel with surprisingly linear growth, Bromwich disrupts expectations with an unhinged ending—a final stab at the festering wound of womanhood, and the woman the narrator once was."
—Corinna Akari Singer, Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism
(Read the review of At the Edge of the Woods)

"This week, host Jason Jefferies is joined by Kathryn Bromwich, who discusses her new novel At the Edge of the Woods... Topics of conversation include Richard Powers' The Overstory, wilderness narratives that captivate our imaginations, a female protagonist living off the grid, how one's mind works first thing in the morning, a mountain as a sentient being, practicing one's smile in the mirror, guilt over not attending church, and much more."
Listen to an interview with the author, presented by Explore Booksellers: Bookin' Podcast: "234--Bookin’ w/ Kathryn Bromwich"

"This might be the best novel I read at the beach this year. It certainly moved me in a way that I wasn't expecting... It's a novel about the aftermath of trauma; a woman turning to the natural world for solace and healing. It reminds me of other novels where nature plays one of the main characters and human beings become just one more piece of the untamed world, not the determiner of it. That said, humans with their prejudices, superstitions, and intolerance can interfere and undermine that consoling presence and carry violence and disruption into a carefully crafted safe space. Lyrical writing takes a quiet but determined look at issues of wildness, feminity, class, fertility, patriarchy, and illness."
—Gayle Shanks, Changing Hands Bookstore (Tempe, AZ)

"Kathryn Bromwich is a debut author I’m truly excited to read more from."
—Alex Faccibene, Geek Girl Authority
"New Release Radar: New Books Coming Out on June 6"

"A taut, suspenseful novel of a life in isolation, laced with a bit of folk horror? We’re in. Kathryn Bromwich’s novel tells the story of a woman living in seclusion near the Alps whose life is disrupted by a visitor from her past."
Vol. 1 Brooklyn
"Books of the Month: June 2023 Edition"

"My other pick for today is [At the Edge of the Woods by Kathryn Bromwich]... it's coming from another of my favorite indie presses... This sounds amazing."
—Liberty Hardy, All the Books! Podcast / Book Riot
"New Releases and More for June 6, 2023"

“Never have I ever come across a book that’s truly as satisfying to read as this little book about a woman living in obscurity set on the outskirts of the Italian Alps. It’s intriguing, mysterious, and contemplative. Not to mention that Bromwich’s prose is unbelievably visceral. You will be hard pressed to find a book that satisfies like this.”
—Thu Doan, East Bay Booksellers, Oakland, CA

“Laura secrets away in a spare remote cabin in an attempt to create a life of her own choosing and free herself of societal expectations. She finds comfort in nature, spending hours each day hiking farther and farther through field and forest. An exploration of how a woman disappears—figuratively and literally—after escaping an abusive, untenable situation.”
—Alana Haley, Schuler’s Books, Grand Rapids, MI

"A raw, intimate, richly textured and lyrical account of a self-imposed isolation in the Italian Alps. Part-almost fairy tale, part-humane examination of the body, memory, loneliness, relationships and nature—this gorgeous book offers a hypnotically meditative insight into one woman’s compelling psyche."
—Lara Williams, author of The Odyssey and Supper Club

"A delicious, dark unravelling. Kathryn Bromwich's prose brings us an unnerving and tenacious voice, a remarkable protagonist. In this brilliant novel, the wild is never far away but we have more to fear from so-called civilisation. An unnerving and exhilarating book that gave me goosebumps. It made me want to take off into the forest!"
Helen Mort, author of A Line Above the Sky

"Elegant, mysterious, unsettling—Bromwich's storytelling is as assured as it is unpredictable. A stunning achievement."
Rhik Samadder, author of I Never Said I Loved You

"Heady and headlong, Bromwich’s deliciously witchy debut unspools with the force and confidence of a spell, conjuring an indelible portrayal of one woman’s quest for selfhood through solitude."
Hermione Hoby, author of Virtue and Neon in Daylight

"I savored this wonderfully intense and enigmatic novel about a woman's retreat into the wilderness. At the Edge of the Woods touches on issues of alienation, illness, womanhood, nature and community, in sensuous prose that delights and disturbs. An offbeat, beguiling debut."
Luiza Sauma, author of Flesh and Bone and Water

"A rich and bewitching novel. Kathryn Bromwich has spun up a delicate world that interrogates the dark side of love, the wild power of nature, and the strength it takes to break free."
Sarah Rose Etter, author of The Book of X and Ripe

"A profound and disquieting portrait of isolation and existence at the borderlands: between cultures, past and present, civilization and wilderness. Through a delicate twining of deliberate, precise storytelling and rich, lyrical detail, Kathryn Bromwich has crafted a captivating and beguiling fable in reverse — a story that feels like it's existed forever, just waiting for her to write it down."
Simon Jacobs, author of Palaces and String Follow

"Mysterious, assured, and deeply, quietly passionate, At the Edge of the Woods is a magnetic debut in love with nature and language in equal measure, eschewing traditional plot and narrative devices in favor of the fabulous on every level... Bromwich infects the senses with dread and wicked insight from the first page to the last—this is a stunning experience not to be missed."
Maryse Meijer, author of The Seventh Mansion

"At the Edge of the Woods is a rare novel: beautifully attuned to both the mysteries of the natural world and of human consciousness, at once cool and intense, suspenseful and surprising. Just when you think you know where Laura’s story is headed the forest path twists, uncovering a world resplendent with ghosts, secrets, and dangerously deep wells of feeling. Kathryn Bromwich is a thrilling new talent."
Laura van den Berg, author of I Hold a Wolf by the Ears and The Third Hotel

"At the Edge of the Woods is a beautiful reflection on the healing powers of nature, as well as an examination of the tensions found at the border between 'society' and 'wilderness'; a question of if we can be part of both and the societal expectations we will inevitably fall short of if we choose to live outside human boundaries. Laura is the ultimate wild woman and one can only hope to have her courage and strength to defy those boundaries that diminish us."
—Natalie Both, Changing Hands (Phoenix, Arizona)
"5 Must-Read Books Out in June"

"Earthy, sensuous, and feminist. Through extraordinary nature writing, Bromwich addresses fertility, culture, class, illness, and community. Tense and witchy, this is a story of one woman who lives on her own terms. Glorious."
—Beth Shapiro, Skylark Bookshop (Columbia, MO)

"Kathryn Bromwich shines in this thriller. Her writing is sublime by injecting us into the beauty of living in nature before transporting us into a different past and the unexpected future."
—Sierra Hollabaugh, Bookery Cincy (Cincinnati, OH)

"An abused woman leaves everything behind to try to find peace, and perhaps a new life, in a rustic cabin. Set in a timeless world, this beautifully written books confronts universal truths about the female outsider."
—Anne Peck, Righton Books (St Simons Island, GA)

"Adding this to the list of books that were so enthralling I had no choice but to read them in one sitting! With a perfect blend of nature writing, mystery, and Shirley Jackson We Have Always Lived in the Castle vibes, [Bromwich] delivers a rich, character-driven novel following a reclusive women living—you guessed it—at the edge of the woods, as she escapes a dark past. Beautiful writing and the perfect amount of spookiness make this a fantastic read."
—Elizabeth Findley, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews (Chapel Hill, NC)

"Mesmerizing! At the Edge of the Woods is a lyrically haunting and intimate fable about women and society that unfolds through the reflections of Laura, a woman who has been driven to the edge of things—in more ways than one. By turns enchanting and hair-raising, this book is full of suppressed tensions and the powerful magic of emerging selfhood, even as Laura increasingly flirts with the line between individual and every-woman. Bromwich's prose is nothing short of magnificent, and this exquisite novel is not to be missed by lovers of literature!"
—Laura Anne Ball, A Likely Story Bookstore (Sykesville, MD)

"The writing here is incredibly striking and alluring; the prose has a cadence that is lyrical and stylistic both, flowing together with ease that sets you, the reader, into the cradled arms of this immersive, expansive tale from the very start... Bromwich interrogates isolation in both its healing and destructive capacities and cleverly treats this as a vehicle for the examination of society's view of 'othered' women, and what lengths one might go to, to remove this othering presence from their space and fall back into a false sense of security again, culminating in our narrator's rise to the status of a mythical strega, living amongst the villagers."
—Monica Robinson, author of  author of Exit Wounds, EARTH IS FULL; GO BACK HOME, and peeling the yellow wallpaper, via Goodreads

"This book is an incredible vibe. It's a little bit of Shirley Jackson, a little bit of Virginia Woolf, a little bit of Ottessa Moshfegh and yes, perhaps some Richard Powers for the nature writing and communication with plants bits. I too would like to go live in a remote woods cabin in rural Italy. Very atmospheric and strange."
—Anton Bogomazov, Politics & Prose (Washington, DC)

"If you are looking for a book where the writing is the star, look no further than At the Edge of the Woods. Exquisite prose begs to be savored, even as the story pulls the reader along. Stunning work."
—Mary O'Malley, Skylark Bookshop (Columbia, MO)

"Out of necessity, Laura has chosen to live a simpler, yet, courageous life in a secluded, rustic cabin in the woods on the outskirts of an Italian village. Necessity turns into a reorganization of priorities, which I wholly admire, as Laura shares her thoughts with the reader on living with nature, interacting with others, and what it means to survive. Beautiful."
—Jill Naylor, Novel. (Memphis, TN)

"Intense and hazy, At the Edge of the Woods is a feverishly captivating combination of nature writing and character study. As Laura becomes increasingly connected to the woods around her, the reader can't help but to be drawn into her orbit, to see things the way that she does."
—Mallory Melton, BookPeople (Austin, TX)

"Elaborate details of the woods, and the quiet, overwhelming powers that both it and being a woman in a patriarchal social structures holds. Bromwich's At the Edge of the Woods fits well in a stack with Ottessa Moshfegh's Death in Her Hands, but it is also a beautiful, fresh addition to the feminist literary canon."
—Tay Jones, White Whale Bookstore (Pittsburgh, PA)

"An engrossing tale that exposes how easily solitude can become isolation and the dangers therein, how the things we need can often be our ruin. A kissing cousin of Margaret Atwood's Surfacing, Bromwich's debut is confident, atmospheric, and mesmerizing."
—Wesley Minter, Third Place Books (Seattle, WA)

"At the Edge of the Woods is a historical yet topical novel about a woman existing outside of society’s expectations. Laura escapes her miserable marriage to reestablish herself in an isolated cabin in the mountains of Italy, her home country. Immersed in nature, she simplifies her routine—hiking, foraging, reading for hours. Only during occasional trips into town does she notice the villagers’ disdain. Amid lyrical prose and ever-building tension, Laura distances herself from conventional reality, but she may be all the wiser for it."
—Mary Wahlmeier, Raven Book Store (Lawrence, KS)

"At the Edge of the Woods is a haunting debut, full of the wonder of nature, the confidence to choose one’s path, and the uncertainty of what comes next. Bromwich builds the tension perfectly in this story..."
—Beth Seufer-Buss, Bookmarks (Winston-Salem, NC)

"Following one woman's self-imposed isolation in the Italian Alps, At the Edge of the Woods delves into the complexities of womanhood, community, nature, and more. Kathryn Bromwich expertly threads her story with tension and relief, slowly revealing the truth of the protagonist to the reader."
—Laura Graveline, Brazos Bookstore (Houston, TX)

"Bromwich has crafted a lovely, quiet, and haunting tale of a woman who escapes a luxurious but miserable life to live alone in a tiny cottage outside a small village. Laura becomes a creature of the forest, but depends on the village for small jobs to buy necessities. She needs the villagers’ trust to get and retain work and be safe in her isolation. Can Laura throw off her once-lofty status to become a member of a tiny, rough-edged community?"
—Kay Wosewick, Boswell Books (Milwaukee, WI)

"This forest journey’s paired with a lit fuse, heard hissing just underfoot throughout, often leading one to wonder if it even leads to a bomb. New trails lead to new tribulations, seemingly traipsed by but lo, never forgotten. Both prejudicial and mythical evidence accrue along the way, treating the reader to two possible and equally satisfying (understandably an understatement) outcomes. I’d love to say I didn’t repeatedly think 'but where is this even going?' throughout, but really that’s the kid-in-the-backseat reaction that just adds flair to the magnificent destination."
—Ian McCord, Avid Bookstore (Athens, GA)

"A woman trying to make a fresh start winds up in the Italian Alps, where she tutors children and climbs mountains—until someone from her past shows up at her door."
—David Varno, Publishers Weekly, "Spring 2023 Announcements: Literary Fiction"


BOOK CLUB & READER GUIDE: Questions and Topics for Discussion

Click here to view and/or download the At the Edge of the Woods reader guide as a PDF.

1. We are first introduced to Laura with a detailed description of her early morning hiking routine, which is followed by her trip into the village for necessities: In what ways is Laura different in these two contrasting settings? What do we learn about her situation from these early chapters?

2. Discuss what time period you believe this novel is set within; what clues did you notice to help inform your answer? What effect does this choice of era have on the story? In what ways would this tale have been different if it was set in our modern day?

3. Of il mostro, the previous tenant of Laura’s cabin, Vincenzo says: “Conscientious objectors, they call it… I do understand why they do it, from an ethical standpoint. But there’s nothing conscientious about leaving your fellow soldiers behind. When you sign up, you swear an oath.” (p. 34) What do Laura and the former soldier have in common? Discuss the reasons you believe each of them were drawn to live here. In what ways does il mostro remain present for Laura, throughout the book? Why do you think this is?

4. “Although the years have transformed me, remnants of my beauty flash through on occasion… I am aware that I must use its power wisely, before it leaves me altogether. If I move to another village once those flashes have gone, I’ll have a different power, that of invisibility.” Using this passage from page 20, discuss whether you believe a woman’s physical appearance may affect perception and treatment from others. In what ways does Laura change her appearance before leaving the woods to go into the village? How does this change over time? What does Laura mean by the word “power” in reference to beauty, as well as to older age?

5. Juxtapose what we see of Laura’s life before arriving in the woods, and after: How do her daily “rituals” differ? For whose benefit are the various rituals performed?

6. Laura refers to laudanum—a previously legal medicine that contained opium—as her “liquid ally” (p. 108): When did Laura start taking laudanum? In what ways does Laura benefit from consuming the drug? What role do you think the mind-altering substance has in this novel?

7. Talk about how this novel investigates issues of class: What was Laura and Julien’s early relationship like? Consider the characters Pierre and Marie, introduced to us on page 52: how are they treated differently by Laura and by Julien, Laura’s wealthy French husband? When Laura first arrives to the woods, what assumptions do the villagers make about her, and how is she treated by them, based on their perceptions? How does Laura’s relationship with the Barbieris change over time?

8. Early on, Laura encounters a lone gray wolf who is lying down and seems to be alone; later, while facing possible imminent danger from this same lone wolf, Laura’s reaction surprises even herself: “I feel compelled to stand still, precisely the opposite of what I had read. Gazing into the eyes of the creature in front of me, I am filled with a pervasive sense of peace.” (p. 119) Of Laura’s different options in this situation, why do you think she gravitated so quickly toward this one, of calmness? What do the pack-less wolf and Laura have in common?

9. Discuss how this novel interrogates the relationship between humans and nature. How do the villagers feel about the wildlife in the woods, and about a person wanting to live there alone?

10. After Laura discovers her home graffitied with words meant to offend her, she concludes: “They appear to believe, from what I can decipher, that I exert a degree of control over the elements, which I must say I find rather complimentary.” (p.143) Would you say that Laura has power over nature? Is it control, or is she simply more in-tune with her surroundings? What evidence is there that the woods are communicating with Laura? How does Laura’s relationship with the natural world around her evolve over the course of the book?

11. Laura is spending time with books that she would not have been able to openly read in her previous life: “strange, subversive novels by tortured Russian existentialists, Gothic stories in which there is no division between life and death, mystical poems that reconfigure reality to their will, Eastern scriptures, political and philosophical treatises that call for revolution in thought and action…” (p. 15) Discuss why Laura is attracted to these texts in particular. Do you think the ideas within them have an effect on Laura’s ways of thinking?

12. Talk about why Laura abandoned her lavish lifestyle with Julien. How does the story of Laura and her husband investigate ideas of womanhood?

13. What do Laura and Vincenzo have in common? What do you think Laura gained from their relationship? How and why did their love affair come to an end?

14. What are the different traumas that Laura endured in her previous life? Has she been successful in her quest to leave her past behind and start anew: in what ways has she been/not been?

15. After her visit, Laura concludes that her mindscape has been fundamentally changed by Héloïse’s presence: Do you think it would have been best for Héloïse—a caring and sympathetic friend from Laura’s past—to not try to find her? Discuss whether you think it is possible for a person to leave behind something toxic from their past while retaining the positive parts; share examples from your own lives to illustrate your opinions.

16. On page 148: “Beyond a certain point, when sympathy has fallen away, pain becomes distasteful to others, as if by venturing too close they might be caught in a vortex they will not be able to escape.” Do you agree with Laura’s conclusion? What does Laura do to “hide” things about herself from others, in order to maintain various relationships? How does this change over the course of the book?

17. Talk about the benefits and drawback of Laura living her life in isolation: What does she like and what does she miss? Why do the villagers eventually label her strega, a witch? Do you believe there is anything Laura could have done that would have prevented that outcome?

18. After suffering an attack on her home, Laura concludes: “I must show them I am not afraid. As much as I would like to live my life out here, it appears that I cannot completely sever my link to humanity... I shall attend [the village festival] with my head held high, be civil and charming.” (p. 149) What are the pros and cons of this reaction; what does she hope to gain? What do you think Laura would have to do in order to live in peace here? Do you believe that being accepted into any community inherently requires denying of the self on some level?

19. Starting on page 79—in the section titled “Interlude,” when Laura is gravely sick with a fever—the narrative voice changes from the first to the third person. Why do you think the point of view is unique in this section? What is different for Laura after she recovers from this dangerous illness?

20. Consider this passage on page 131: “I inspect my reflection. In the mirror, I am a goddess: my face glows like a Greek deity, hair curled and regal, my outline surrounded by a halo of quivering golden thread. I watch the reflection for a few moments longer, trying to find myself under the veneer, but I can’t untangle the two; they appear to be one and the same.” How does this description contrast with Laura’s reaction to seeing herself in the mirror at the very beginning of the book? Discuss what has changed for Laura over the course of the story and how she sees herself, and why.

21. Laura’s double vision or twofold vision, becomes pronounced after she wakes from a night of sleeping out in the forest: “When the details of my identity finally come into focus again, the spell is not broken, but redoubled, as though I were seeing the forest through two sets of eyes.” (p. 128) How does Laura react to her new situation? How does this new way of seeing affect Laura’s reality? What happens at the second village festival, related to Laura’s vision?

22. The last chapter begins with the thought: “I have read, somewhere, that a great deal of suffering might be spared if we were taught to expect nothing from the world in the first place. This had struck me as impossibly bleak at first, but the more I think of it, the wiser the proposition appears.” (p. 172) What expectations do you think Laura had earlier in her life that led to suffering? Describe the evolution in Laura’s ways of thinking which resulted in her change of heart. How does Laura live out this idea?

23. Focusing on the elements of the final chapter: Why do you think Laura leaves her cabin in this manner? As a group, take turns explaining your interpretations of what happens when she is at the top of the pass. What do you think will happen next? Share whether you were surprised by this conclusion to At the Edge of the Woods, and if you think it is a fitting ending to Laura’s story.


At the Edge of the Woods author Kathryn Bromwich (Two Dollar Radio, 2023)

Kathryn Bromwich is a writer and commissioning editor on The Observer newspaper in London. She writes about all aspects of culture, including music, film, TV, books, art and more, and has contributed to publications including Little White Lies, Dazed, Vice, Time Out and The Independent. She has lived in Italy, Austria and the UK and is currently based in east London.
(Author photograph by Alice Zoo.)

Visit the Kathryn Bromwich author page for additional details and interviews.

Sneak Peek

Enjoy a sneak peek of select pages from At the Edge of the Woods by Kathryn Bromwich!
View At the Edge of the Woods sneak peek here on Issuu.com

At the Edge of the Woods by Kathryn Bromwich sneak peek look inside the book on Issuu


Cover design: Eric Obenauf.
Cover photo: Photo by Sergei Sviridov on Unsplash.
Author photograph: Alice Zoo

FORMAT: Hardcover Original (1st printing, paper-over-board)
LIST PRICE: $26.00 USD; £20.00 GPB; $24.99 CAD
PAGES: 220
PRINT ISBN: 9781953387318
DIGITAL EBOOK ISBN: 9781953387325
AUDIOBOOK: Digital Download ISBN: 9781696610360
RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2023
SIZE: 5.5" x 7.5"

Audiobook edition: HighBridge Audio, a division of Recorded Books: At the Edge of the Woods by Kathryn Bromwich, read by Gemma Dawson (June 6, 2023).
Click here to listen to a excerpt of the novel:


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Printed in Canada by Marquis, with the following environmental statement:
*Printed on Rolland Enviro. This paper contains 100% post-consumer fiber, is manufactured using renewable energy - Biogas and processed chlorine free.
*FSC certified paper (inside and cover).

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