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One of the most acclaimed modern American novelists, Scott Spencer captures the intensity of human passion—and its capacity to both destroy and redeem—with unparalleled precision and insight. Now, in his most stunning novel yet, this wry, witty, and deeply sensitive writer returns to the territory of his New York Times bestseller A Ship Made of Paper, in a gripping and provocative psychological thriller of morality and manhood, choice and fate.

Paul has been on his own since he was a teenager, leading a life of freedom and independence, beholden to no one and nothing. Fearless, resolute, and guided by his own private moral code, he has hunted for food in Alaska, fought forest fires, and been deputized in a manhunt for a kidnapper in South Dakota.Once he thought his life would have no particular rhyme or reason, touched only by transient strangers. Then he meets the beautiful, intelligent, loving Kate Ellis and her daughter, Ruby, who offer order and constancy. But Paul is a man of deep convictions, and the compromises we all make to get along in the world elude him.

On his way home after rejecting a job remodeling a luxurious Manhattan apartment, Paul stops to gather his thoughts at a state park just off the highway. Instead of peace, he finds a man savagely beating a dog, and in a few fateful moments Paul is plunged into a world of violence and onto a tumultuous journey of self-knowledge, guilt, and redemption.

With the psychological acuity and razor-sharp prose for which he has been celebrated, award-winning, bestselling novelist Scott Spencer once again takes us on an unforgettable journey of manhood lost and found.

Published: HarperCollins on Sep 14, 2010
ISBN: 9780062010544
List price: $9.99
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Paul is a man's man, the kind of guy romance novels like to feature. He makes a good living as a carpenter, making beautiful, custom-made pieces for his wealthy clients. He likes to walk in the woods, chop his own firewood and he's a caring partner and nurturing parent. He's with Kate, who found fortune and fame when she wrote an inspirational self-help book after finding God in AA. She's down to earth and so thankful that her life has made such a dramatic turn for the better. Together with Kate's daughter they live in a beautiful old house in a charming and small community in New York. One day, after a few encounters with difficult clients in the city, Paul stops at a state park on his drive home to clear his head under the trees. There he encounters a man beating a dog. In a horrible, randomly escalating incident, Paul has killed the man and now has to live with the consequences.Scott Spencer has created complex and realistic characters in both Paul and Kate. They're people who have tried their best to lead lives of honesty and integrity, to care for the people around them, to be contributing members of their community and to love their families, but they're also subject to all of the ordinary doubts and weaknesses of being human. Kate may have a successful career as an inspirational writer and speaker, but she doesn't think she's any more spiritual or knowledgeable than anyone else. Paul thought he'd always just kind of get by, and finding his vocation and such a generous degree of stability is still new to him. The novel is less about the aftermath of a murder than the spiritual and psychological consequences for both Kate and Paul. Spencer took his time setting things up, letting the reader get to know the soon-to-be murdered man, making the altercation less random than it might appear. There is certainly a lot to think about here, and Spencer's less interested in answers than in having the characters struggle with the questions. Can a good man commit murder? How does the events of a few minutes change things? Does a single event negate Paul's entire life of striving for honesty and openness?read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Paul is basically a good guy. Which is why, when he encounters a man abusing his dog in an otherwise deserted state park, he tries to stop it. A fight ensues, and in the scuffle, Paul accidentally kills the man. Then he does something that's probably not so good: he leaves the body there and tells no one what happened. But while it seems likely that he'll never be arrested for the crime, living with what he's done may be another matter. I liked this a lot. It's very well-written, with believable characters and a nice sense of emotional realism. And while I'm not normally a fan of the head-hopping style of omniscient narration, I think Scott Spenser uses it to very good effect here. There are some interesting themes about love, about the gaining and losing of faith, and the human capacity for violence and remorse, but it's all very grounded in the characters, with the author never explicitly preaching his own point of view. And while it is very much a character-based novel, more about relationships and emotions and psychology than anything strongly plot-driven, it still somehow manages to have some of the feel of a good suspense novel.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I picked this up because I saw it on some list as being one of the best books of 2010.I liked it. It was a decent mix of a psychological crime story and a literary, character-driven book. As a result of the latter, the book's plot gets bogged down somewhat throughout the middle, but the main character's constant struggle with what he has done and whether he will get away with it -- both in the real world and in his mind -- was well written.Some of the plot lines didn't resonate with me that much. Ruby going crazy just because she senses something might be wrong? Seemed a little odd. The whole side plot with Sonny at the end? It seemed thrown together to fill space. Paul's movement toward faith and Kate's movement away seemed a bit too convenient.One thing I will say is the last few pages were great. Ruby's vision of the angel in the mirror that ends up being a squad car was a great metaphor for what Paul was struggling with throughout the whole book.The dog's name being Shep (as in shepherd) and then its actual name, which we find out in the end is Woody, was a little too overt in its symbolism for my tastes, thanks.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Paul is a man's man, the kind of guy romance novels like to feature. He makes a good living as a carpenter, making beautiful, custom-made pieces for his wealthy clients. He likes to walk in the woods, chop his own firewood and he's a caring partner and nurturing parent. He's with Kate, who found fortune and fame when she wrote an inspirational self-help book after finding God in AA. She's down to earth and so thankful that her life has made such a dramatic turn for the better. Together with Kate's daughter they live in a beautiful old house in a charming and small community in New York. One day, after a few encounters with difficult clients in the city, Paul stops at a state park on his drive home to clear his head under the trees. There he encounters a man beating a dog. In a horrible, randomly escalating incident, Paul has killed the man and now has to live with the consequences.Scott Spencer has created complex and realistic characters in both Paul and Kate. They're people who have tried their best to lead lives of honesty and integrity, to care for the people around them, to be contributing members of their community and to love their families, but they're also subject to all of the ordinary doubts and weaknesses of being human. Kate may have a successful career as an inspirational writer and speaker, but she doesn't think she's any more spiritual or knowledgeable than anyone else. Paul thought he'd always just kind of get by, and finding his vocation and such a generous degree of stability is still new to him. The novel is less about the aftermath of a murder than the spiritual and psychological consequences for both Kate and Paul. Spencer took his time setting things up, letting the reader get to know the soon-to-be murdered man, making the altercation less random than it might appear. There is certainly a lot to think about here, and Spencer's less interested in answers than in having the characters struggle with the questions. Can a good man commit murder? How does the events of a few minutes change things? Does a single event negate Paul's entire life of striving for honesty and openness?
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Paul is basically a good guy. Which is why, when he encounters a man abusing his dog in an otherwise deserted state park, he tries to stop it. A fight ensues, and in the scuffle, Paul accidentally kills the man. Then he does something that's probably not so good: he leaves the body there and tells no one what happened. But while it seems likely that he'll never be arrested for the crime, living with what he's done may be another matter. I liked this a lot. It's very well-written, with believable characters and a nice sense of emotional realism. And while I'm not normally a fan of the head-hopping style of omniscient narration, I think Scott Spenser uses it to very good effect here. There are some interesting themes about love, about the gaining and losing of faith, and the human capacity for violence and remorse, but it's all very grounded in the characters, with the author never explicitly preaching his own point of view. And while it is very much a character-based novel, more about relationships and emotions and psychology than anything strongly plot-driven, it still somehow manages to have some of the feel of a good suspense novel.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I picked this up because I saw it on some list as being one of the best books of 2010.I liked it. It was a decent mix of a psychological crime story and a literary, character-driven book. As a result of the latter, the book's plot gets bogged down somewhat throughout the middle, but the main character's constant struggle with what he has done and whether he will get away with it -- both in the real world and in his mind -- was well written.Some of the plot lines didn't resonate with me that much. Ruby going crazy just because she senses something might be wrong? Seemed a little odd. The whole side plot with Sonny at the end? It seemed thrown together to fill space. Paul's movement toward faith and Kate's movement away seemed a bit too convenient.One thing I will say is the last few pages were great. Ruby's vision of the angel in the mirror that ends up being a squad car was a great metaphor for what Paul was struggling with throughout the whole book.The dog's name being Shep (as in shepherd) and then its actual name, which we find out in the end is Woody, was a little too overt in its symbolism for my tastes, thanks.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
[Man in the Woods] by [[Scott Spencer]]Briefly, the premise is a good man "loses it" and commits accidental manslaughter.  The book examines the effects this has on him, his girlfriend, and their relationship.  They have to examine their shadow sides and face what they, and humanity are capable of in the midst of their clear goodness.  The characters are likable in that they are multi-faceted, admitting and exploring both their strengths and weaknesses.  I don't know why, but I didn't connect well with the female character.  I wish I could explain that.  My appreciation for professional book reviewer is growing exponentially!  I wish the author had taken the time to explore more deeply the question of whether  or not it is always wise or advisable to turn yourself over to the U.S. criminal justice system.  I'd like to have seen the characters struggle with that question a little  more.  I'm not big on our criminal justice system and think there are better ways of making amends and much better guidelines for ethics and morals.  It is a topic I'm very interested in.  For example, most would agree that it was the correct thing to do to hide people from Nazis.  I would say that in a system that denies healthcare to ill and dying people it is the moral thing to do for example, to write a prescription in the name of someone who has insurance.   Maybe in another book...........Highly recommended.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A book that started off with a good idea and then never developed it. There is a murder at the beginning but the book is really about guilt, and in case you're thinkiing about reading it i'll save you the time - nothing happens until the very last page. And even then, nothing much actually happens but is left to the imagination. The entire book deals with the murderer's inner struggle with guilt and remorse - basically through his whining to himself or his wife. It just isn't very interesting. Also, I felt that the murderer's present and past behaviour had hinted at a volatile temper that could unexpectedly snap out of control at any moment, yet after the murder that volatility seems to just disappear. Kind of pointless.
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