A young girl runs from Jamestown in Lauren Groff's new book, 'The Vaster Wilds'

Lauren Groff, The Vaster Wilds
Lauren Groff's new book, "The Vaster Wilds," follows a young girl as she runs from the Jamestown Colony during "the starving times" to try and survive in a brutal early American wilderness.
Photo by Eli Sinkus, cover courtesy of Penguin Random House

Lauren Groff’s new novel, “The Vaster Wilds,” begins in the bleak winter of 1609, when the residents of the early American colony of Jamestown are diseased and starving.

A young servant girl, who was brought to the new world by a prosperous and indifferent family, decides to run from the desolation. But she leaves Jamestown not knowing her direction, her surroundings or even her name. Can she survive the untouched wilderness?

Groff says her new book is haunted by climate change — the fact that we, as a species, are also running into the vast unknown. But like her unnamed protagonist, she finds moments of ecstasy in the starkness of nature, times when she sees her own body experience euphoria in the midst of pain.

This week, Groff joined host Kerri Miller on Big Books and Bold Ideas for a conversation about “The Vaster Wilds.” Like her other books, this one plays with themes of feminism, religion and morality, and she dives into all those topics.

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But she also reveals how many covers she and her publishing house went through before they settled on the one that was printed, and how many books she’s writing right now, simultaneously.


  • Lauren Groff is a New York Times bestselling author of several books, including “Matrix” and “Fates and Furies.” Her new novel is “The Vaster Wilds.”

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