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A grieving widow feeling disconnected from life discovers a most unexpected obsession – hunting for mushrooms – in a story of healing and purpose.
Long Litt Woon moved to Norway from Malaysia as a nineteen-year-old exchange student. Soon after her arrival, she met Eiolf. He became the love of her life. After thirty-two years together, Eiolf's sudden death left Woon struggling to imagine a life without the man who had been soulmate and best friend. Adrift in her grief, Woon signs up for a beginner's course on mushrooming. She finds, to her surprise, that the hunt for mushrooms and mushroom knowledge rekindles her appetite for life, awakens her dulled senses, and provides a source of joy and meaning.
The Way Through the Woods tells the story of two parallel journeys: an inner one, through the landscape of mourning, and an outer one, into the fascinating realm of mushrooms – resilient, adaptable, dizzyingly diverse, and essential to nature's cycles of death and rebirth. An anthropologist and certified mushroom expert, Woon brings a fresh eye and boundless curiosity to the natural world and takes readers from primordial Norwegian forests to hidden-in-plain-sight Central Park pathways. She also introduces a lovable and eccentric cast of mushroom obsessives. Her explorations of the connections between humans, nature, grief, and healing are universal.
Long Litt Woon is a Malaysian-born Norwegian social anthropologist and certified mushroom expert. Long worked for the Ministry of Development Aid and the European Commission and served as Director of Norway's National Center for Gender Equality from 2003 to 2005. When she's not tracking down rare fungi across the globe, she continues to work as a management consultant, helping government organizations and private businesses improve diversity and gender equality.
"In this enchanting debut memoir, anthropologist Long tells of her life in Norway after the sudden death of her 54-year-old husband left her "alone in the world". A beginner's course in mushrooming was an unexpected life raft, leading her to find community and a sense of meaning while wandering the woods [...] This unique tale of rebirth after loss doubles as a riveting foray into the world of mushrooming."
– Publishers Weekly
"Anyone with an interest in the natural world will delight in Long's sharp-eyed descriptions (and line drawings) of fungi and her therapeutic rambles through Norwegian woods. A wonder-inducing dive into the unique kingdom of fungi."
"In her search for new meaning in life after the death of her husband, Long Litt Woon undertook the study of mushrooms. What she found in the woods, and expresses with such tender joy in this heartfelt memoir, was nothing less than salvation."
– Eugenia Bone, author of Mycophilia and Microbia
"This is one of the most surprising and original books I have read in a long time [...] so much to learn and reflect about the human condition and about a natural phenomenon."
– Knut Olav Åmås (Norwegian critic, commentator and writer)
"It is poetic, warm and moving, and steeped in life wisdom."
– Sissel Gran (Norwegian psychologist and author)
"[A] heartfelt and honest account of overcoming loss that will give hope to readers in a simple, yet profound way. In her beautifully written first book, Long shares a way to feel anew by setting foot on a different path, discovering a spark of joy, and finding meaning again. Readers who appreciate the journeys through grief found in memoirs like Cheryl Strayed's Wild (2012) or Shannon Leone Fowler's Traveling with Ghosts (2017) should pick this up."
– Melissa Norstedt, Booklist
"This thoughtful, touching account explores Woon's experience learning mushroom foraging in the aftermath of tragedy [...] With charming sketches of the various mushrooms Woon encounters, this moving memoir explores one woman's journey through grief and will please fans of personal narratives as well as those who may be interested in mushroom foraging."
– Venessa Hughes, Library Journal
"Among the 20 "utterly engrossing" non-fiction books for the summer of 2019."
"One of the most beautiful books of the year. A touching and funny story which also is familiar because it touches on one of the most common and dreaded experiences. A scholarly and literary work to embellish your life."
– Bookstore Le Square in Grenoble
"Poetic, moving, original. One of the books we talked about this year."
– L'Escapade Bookstore