A Review of Woodswoman by Anne LaBastille
The Basics about Anne LaBastille
- Anne LaBastille (November 20, 1935 – July 1, 2011) was from a suburb of New York City, though she moved to the Adirondacks after college and lived the rest of her life there
- Anne was a writer, wilderness guide and wildlife ecologist with a PhD in Wildlife Ecology
- She designed and built her own cabin on Black Bear Lake (which was a fictional name that she used in her writing so that she could not be found by her readers. Later, the lake was identified as Twichell Lake.)
- Ann not only wrote novels, she also wrote scientific articles as well as articles for major publications such as National Geographic.
- Woodswoman is the first in a series of books about LaBastille's experiences as a woman living on her own in the wilderness of the Adirondacks.
A Summary of Woodswoman
Anne LaBastille was faced with life as a single woman with no place to go after a divorce from her husband. She was a nature-lover and someone who valued her independence and solitude, so she searched throughout the nearby Adirondacks for the perfect spot and she found it - at Black Bear Lake. Black Bear Lack is the fictional name for the place that LaBastille built her cabin with the help of a few builders, and where she the years that she documents in Woodswoman, learning how to live in the wilderness.
From the moment one begins to read the book, it is clear that Anne is a very strong and capable woman. Her determination and willingness to work hard pay off as she addresses a number of early obstacles, including finding out that she must move her cabin away from the shore (after it has been built) because she did not properly read the paperwork when she bought the land!
Anne faces run-ins with bears, raccoon's, and drunken neighbors as the novel progresses and somehow she makes it through each obstacle with creativity and humor. Anne was originally from the suburbs of New York City, but after spending years in the Adirondacks as a student and then as the co-owner of a lodge alongside her husband, Anne fell in love with the woods and the plants and creatures throughout them.
Even though Anne was an independent woman, she also craved some company and eventually attempted to domesticate a fox, which ultimately didn't work out. She soon obtained her dog and future life-long companion, Pitzi, though and the two spent almost every moment together.
The novel covers Anne's experiences over the next few years both in and out of the woods at times, and the relationships, lessons and challenges involved.
Anne and Pitzi in 1973. She was also a photographer.
A Review of Woodswoman
Personally, I found Woodswoman to be thrilling, insightful and at times, hilarious. Anne LaBastille was an extremely brave woman who faced life after a divorce with no certain path in front of her so she chose to follow her dream of living in a cabin in the Adirondacks by building one! She was lucky to have the resources to do so, and there were many times where I could not imagine facing the obstacles that she faced with as much confidence and as positive of an attitude as she did.
One interesting aspect of the book was the thread that ran throughout it regarding connections. Even though Anne was recently divorced and wrote a great deal about the value she placed on solitude, it was interesting that she was always in relationship with someone or something - be it her cabin, friends that lived nearby, animals (particularly her beloved Pitzi,) or even the trees around her. She may have moved out into the woods thinking about quiet and time alone, but she found herself forming connections constantly. I believe that was one of the things that was most endearing about Anne; even though she was willing to try almost anything on her own she always saw the value in helping others, in caring for and respecting animal and plant life, and even in romance.
In regards to her respect for animal and plant life in particular, Anne was a staunch environmentalist and wildlife ecologist who earned her PhD during the time that she lived in the woods. Her insights about our society today, and city life in particular, were quite true and very thought-provoking. Her passion for the environment was clear and Anne even became a licensed wilderness guide, helping others understand more about the woods and the importance of caring for our planet.
This book was one that I could not put down, and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Woodswoman II: Beyond Black Bear Lake! I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to connect with a narrator and hear the ups and downs of life in the wilderness!