Gone Feral ($26.95) is Novella Carpenter’s search for her father. Back-to-the-land homesteader, gifted classical guitarist, Korean War vet, hermit, curmudgeon, George Carpenter has been absent for most of his daughter’s life. But when he officially goes missing— only to be found in a fleabag Arizona motel, escaping the brutal Idaho winter—his daughter is forced to confront the truth: Her time with her dad, now seventy-three years old, is limited, and the moment to restore their relationship is now. Thus begins a journey of discovery that carries Carpenter from her Oakland urban farm to her father’s ramshackle cabin on a quest for connection that reveals who she is and where she came from.
The story starts in San Miguel de Allende in 1969, where Carpenter’s free-spirited parents meet and fall in love. Their whirlwind romance continues through Europe and ends on 180 acres beside Idaho’s Clearwater River. Carpenter and her sister are born into a free, roaming childhood but soon the harsh reality of living on the land—loneliness, backbreaking labor—tears the family apart. Carpenter’s mother packs the girls and heads for the straight life in Washington State while George remains on the ranch, tied to the land and his vision of freedom.
In Gone Feral, Carpenter, now a grown woman contemplating a family of her own, returns to Orofino to answer why her father chose this life of solitude. She quickly finds that George is not living the principled, romantic life she imagined, and the truth is more complicated than anything she might have imagined. As she comes to know the real George, Carpenter looks to her own life and comes to recognize her father’s legacy in their shared love of animals, of nature, and of the written word; their dangerous stubbornness and isolating independence.
Novella Carpenter is the author of the bestselling Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer and is the coauthor of The Essential Urban Farmer. She lives and farms in Oakland, California, with her partner, Billy, and daughter, Frances.