The Way Through the Woods: On Mushrooms and Mourning

Hardcover Publication Date: August 29, 2019 / Publisher: Random House Publishing Group / Random House

Perhaps the most “unlikely” piece of non-fiction I’ve ever read – unlikely to be written in the first place and unlikely to be read by me, or so it seemed.  In fact, I would have said unlikely to be read by anybody.  I would have said that until I read it, so let’s get that behind us.  This little oddity is good, pleasant and comforting, actually.  The author is Malaysian, living in Norway with her Norwegian husband when he dies suddenly at a rather young age.  Devastated, absolutely lost, she recounts her struggle with grief and her serendipitous discovery of mushroom hunting and the intricacies of mushroom identification.  Quite a big thing in Norway, evidently, organized and controlled.  There are even highly trained volunteer mushroom inspectors for safety.  Who knew?  

Ms. Long makes no claims that mushrooms have special properties that helped her, but rather, her introduction to and her education in the rewards of mushroom hunting ran concurrently with her mourning, lifting her in her struggles and despair.  You, too, will be educated: fun, fungal facts (really), identification, cooking tips, and, of course, the effects of poisonous mushrooms.  There’s even a lengthy discussion of psychedelics, which, I was gratified to know, are called ‘shrooms in Norway, too.  But the very best thing for me?  Illustrations.  Lovely delicate line drawings of mushrooms throughout.  Not detailed, no.  Simple, graceful suggestions of mushrooms.  So, I enjoyed the book and tripped out on the drawings, but do I recommend it?  Yes, however, I can’t honestly say it’s for everyone.  Who’s to say, though?  You could be taken by surprise as I was.  Don’t be too proud to get in touch with your inner geek.  Why, at this very moment, I have two cans of mushroom stems and pieces in my cabinet.  Store brand. 

Full Disclosure:  A review copy of this book was provided to me by Random House Publishing Group / Random House via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I would like to thank the publisher, the author and NetGalley for providing me this opportunity.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

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