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Wolf in White Van (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

I usually like to take my time with books, but I devoured Wolf in White Van in less than twenty-four hours. I knew from the start that it would be an unusual read: a disfigured recluse runs a play-by-mail dystopian roleplaying game, with unintended results. But I was unprepared for how deeply Sean's guilt and isolation would resound with me, and how deeply I wanted to dive into his world and find that hidden tower in Kansas for myself. I couldn't tear myself away from this deeply meditative story, like a vivid and troubling dream.

— Andrea

As anyone who listens to the Mountain Goats knows, singer/songwriter
John Darnielle’s words are haunting and brilliant, tragic but full of
life. In Wolf in a White Van, years after a disfiguring
self-inflicted “accident,” another tragedy hits Sean, who runs a
post-apocalyptic role-playing game through snail-mail. Here’s his
reflection on the power of imagination and desperation. What could be
dark and heavy is empathic and gentle—but also brutal and unpitying.
This stunning book is so devastatingly creative, so quietly
commanding—like a puzzle fit together backward; like a sinister whisper
through a pitch-black tunnel; like nothing you’ve ever read.

— Julia

October 2014 Indie Next List

“Darnielle is an outstanding storyteller writing about lives on the outside edges of society and the extreme moments in those lives. Sean, the narrator of Wolf in White Van, has had an isolated existence since he was disfigured at the age of 17. As the creator of a mail-based role-playing game called Trace Italian, Sean influences the lives of others in unexpected, unintended ways. Wolf in White Van is captivating, haunting, and powerful. Highly recommended!”
— Carol Schneck Varner, Schuler Books & Music, Okemos, MI


Long-listed for the 2014 National Book Award in fiction
Winner of the 2015 Alex Award for adult books with special appeal for young adults
"Welcome to Trace Italian, a game of strategy and survival You may now make your first move." Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of seventeen, Sean Phillips crafts imaginary worlds for strangers to play in. From his small apartment in southern California, he orchestrates fantastic adventures where possibilities, both dark and bright, open in the boundaries between the real and the imagined. As the creator of Trace Italian a text-based, role-playing game played through the mail Sean guides players from around the world through his intricately imagined terrain, which they navigate and explore, turn by turn, seeking sanctuary in a ravaged, savage future America.
Lance and Carrie are high school students from Florida, explorers of the Trace. But when they take their play into the real world, disaster strikes, and Sean is called to account for it. In the process, he is pulled back through time, tunneling toward the moment of his own self-inflicted departure from the world in which most people live.
Brilliantly constructed, "Wolf in White Van" unfolds in reverse until we arrive at both the beginning and the climax: the event that has shaped so much of Sean's life. Beautifully written and unexpectedly moving, John Darnielle's audacious and gripping debut novel is a marvel of storytelling brio and genuine literary delicacy.

About the Author

John Darnielle is a writer, composer, guitarist, and vocalist for the band the Mountain Goats; he is widely considered one of the best lyricists of his generation. He lives in Durham, North Carolina, with his wife and son.

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780374292089
ISBN-10: 0374292086
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Publication Date: September 16th, 2014
Pages: 207
Language: English


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