Followed by the Lark: A Novel (Hardcover)

Followed by the Lark: A Novel By Helen Humphreys Cover Image

Followed by the Lark: A Novel (Hardcover)


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“A luscious novel . . . [Helen] Humphreys offers a fresh view of a philosopher thought of as a loner, depicting his family home as a place for communion and companionship . . . This is Thoreau as he really lived.” —Hillary Kelly, The Atlantic

A novel as wise as it is tender, a meditation on the miracle of friendship and the heartbreak of change,
Followed by the Lark inhabits the life of Henry David Thoreau.

Henry felt his pulse quickening with the lengthening days and the return of the birds, with the leafing out of the trees and the whir of the poplars, the trembling song of the frogs in the marsh.

We mark time and make our mark on the earth, even as everything around us is shifting and growing, and soon enough these marks will disappear. Friendship comes and reorients us to the horizon; loss comes and stretches out into loneliness.

Henry measured and recorded the temperature on and around Walden Pond across the seasons. He built a cabin on its banks and lived there mostly alone—for two years, two months, and two days. He took long walks, floated down rivers with his brother, lost that brother and a friend when they were both still young, read and wrote books, left for the city and came back, heard the romantic whistle of the train transform into the clanging disruption of industry and the destruction of forests hundreds of years grown, watched a young nation rush toward conflict, helped refugees find their next stop on the road to freedom.

Inspired by the life, letters, and diaries of Henry David Thoreau, Followed by the Lark shows how strikingly similar the concerns of the early nineteenth century are to our own, and reminds us to listen for news of change: the song of spring’s first bluebird, reports from those who have heard it, and all the sounds and fearful wonders that come after.

Helen Humphreys is an acclaimed, award-winning author of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Her work includes the novels The Evening Chorus, Coventry, and Afterimage, and the nonfiction books And a Dog Called Fig, The Ghost Orchard, and The Frozen Thames. She has won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Toronto Book Award, and a Lambda Literary Award, and has been a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Trillium Book Award, and CBC Radio’s Canada Reads.

Product Details ISBN: 9780374611491
ISBN-10: 0374611491
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: February 13th, 2024
Pages: 240
Language: English

“Poetic . . . Evocative.”
—Alida Becker, The New York Times Book Review

Followed by the Lark richly imagines the robust inner life of [Thoreau] . . . Gorgeous . . . A compelling, affecting portrait of the esteemed naturalist.”
—Janet Somerville, Toronto Sun

“Uniquely lyrical, empathic, and transporting . . . Humphreys gracefully and perceptively imagines the inner life of a singular earth ecstatic more comfortable with bluebirds than humans, attuned to the seasons and the lay of the land, and blissful in solitude and communion with the page. A mesmerizing and moving homage.”
—Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

“Those already familiar with Thoreau’s life; fans of Robin Wall Kimmerer or Mary Oliver; and anyone who agrees with Thoreau that ‘wondering didn't always need an answer’ will all appreciate Followed by the Lark.”
Shelf Awareness (starred review)

“Humphreys is a born storyteller, her prose jumping through the life and times of Thoreau, like a gentle river current in summertime. The result is a novel of astonishing insight into Thoreau’s complicated spiritual, and often tragic life.”
—Ron Halvorson, EcoLit Books

“Arresting in [its] beauty . . . Humphreys ably demonstrates the enduring appeal of her subject.”
Publishers Weekly

“[An] affectionate meander through the life of Henry David Thoreau . . . whose enthusiasts will find much to delight here.”
Kirkus Reviews

“What a balm, this book, the way it returns us to the nouns of the world: the birds, the stones, the stumps, an apple in the pocket, a brother, a pond. It made me want to go outside. By inhabiting Thoreau, letting us walk with him through the Concord woods, Followed by the Lark shows the natural world offering order against the messy stuff of human life—its disappointments, confusions, periods of lockjawed grief. With muscle and melancholy, it reminds us that a sense of meaning rises from a sense of place, and that attention is a form of reverence, and love.”
—Nina MacLaughlin, author of Wake, Siren

“This Thoreau is flawed, human, muddling through, and yet also prescient about the consequences of empire and what some called progress. Followed by the Lark is a beautiful threnody for what is lost as we grow and what is destroyed by colonization.”
—Sarah Moss, author of The Fell

Followed by the Lark unfolds like friendship itself: the initial surprise, delightful as the first bluebird of spring, followed by the long years and sneakily brief seasons of mutual discoveries, tensions, and shared losses. Helen Humphreys has written a textured, intimate companion to our factual knowledge of Thoreau and, in the meantime, evoked a longing in this reader for a deeper connection to the natural world. A gem of a book.”
—Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men

“Helen Humphreys has given us a Thoreau tenderly, mindfully observed in moments to be experienced much as the good surveyor of Concord did himself: with a sauntering curiosity that brings life into our hearts, bearing all its freshness, all its depths and contradictions. I will treasure this book.”
—Trevor Herriot, author of The Economy of Sparrows