Settled in the Wild, by Susan Hand ShetterlySettled in the Wild: Notes from the Edge of Town
by Susan Hand Shetterly
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2010

By Claudia Broman

Along Maine’s coast there is a rural place where plants, animals, and people make up a community, where town flows into wild places, and where what is wild comes to town.  In Settled in the Wild: Notes from the Edge of Town, Susan Hand Shetterly shares a chronology of personal essays that depict experiences in that rugged place.

What is most striking about Settled in the Wild is Shetterly’s skill in describing community.  The people and wildness around her home are depicted in ways that demonstrate a way of life; even after two readings I could not find a single instance of anthropomorphism.  While each person and each creature is given the space to be their own, these individuals also contribute to an evolving system – a holistic way of communicating and existing with one another.

Shetterly marks time through the interactions she has with others, whether living in a rustic cabin with her husband and children, discovering a cricket “bite” with her son, rehabilitating and relating to a young raven, or appreciating a dead pine in a field.  Shetterly honors her revealed past through the equal attention she pays to the beautiful and the ugly.

The care with which Settled in the Wild is written is testament to the concern Shetterly has for place.  Her essays inspire consideration of what relationships exist in our own communities, what access to wildness we have, and how compassion can better connect us to the places where we live.  The essay collection is Shetterly’s first in 20 years, and it’s well worth the time to read.

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Claudia Broman lives in Ashland, Wisconsin. Her poetry has appeared in Writing Nature: An Annual of Fine Nature Writing and Drawing.

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