Big Books & Bold Ideas with Kerri Miller

Healing from trauma in the northern Wisconsin woods

Woman poses next to separate photo of book cover
Novelist Carol Dunbar lives in the woods of northern Wisconsin, and it shows in her new book, "A Winter's Rime." It follows 25-year-old Army veteran Mallory Moe as she struggles to come to grips with her past during a bleak Midwest winter.
Maddie Cohen and Macmillan

Carol Dunbar didn’t set out to be an writer.

For more than a decade, she was an actress based in the Twin Cities. She told stories by embodying them.

But then she and her husband — also an actor — decided to leave it all behind. They moved off the grid, to rural Wisconsin, so her husband could handcraft furniture. It was there, while learning to split wood and pump water and raise two toddlers in the midst of the chaos, that Dunbar came to the stunning conclusion that she was a storyteller — just one who had been working in the wrong art form. So she began to write.

Her first book, “The Net Beneath Us” won the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award and told the story of a young woman learning to live close off the land in Wisconsin after her husband has a logging accident. Her new novel, “A Winter’s Rime,” is also set in northern Wisconsin and plays with truths Dunbar has learned firsthand about PTSD, healing and place.

This week’s Big Book and Bold Ideas features a conversation between host Kerri Miller and Dunbar. They talk about how the rural north woods influence Dunbar’s writing, how both her books are informed by her own story and why learning to forgive one’s self might be the key to redemption.


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