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Gifted
A Novel

Counterpoint Press, Coming April, 2017
Gifted by Author John Daniel
Henry Fielder, solitary and unmoored in his thirties, runs into an old lover and finds himself ready to tell the story he has harbored for two decades. He is fifteen, in rural western Oregon, enduring a year of sorrows. His mother has died, his father is physically abusive, and his extraordinary spiritual affinity for the wild lives of his native country seems to desert him. An older couple, retiring to the area from California, offer solace and expanded cultural horizons but set him further at odds with his millworker father. The abuse escalates, and ultimately a natural disaster catalyzes a crisis in which father and son betray each other and Henry sets out on a trek through the backcountry of the Oregon Coast Range, seeking to understand what has happened and to forge a new sense of self.

A Huck Finn of the modern age, Henry is portrayed with a directness and clarity that pulls readers through the environmental dynamics of the Pacific Northwest. In stark yet beautiful prose that highlights his long tenure as a nature writer, Daniel creates an odyssey that explores the spiritual dimensions and deeply entangled pains and pleasures of belonging to the human domain and the natural world of which it is part.

Set in the mid-1990s, when environmentalists and timber communities warred over the future of the last Northwestern old-growth forests, Gifted is the story of a young man with a metaphysical imagination—naïve yet wise, gifted yet ordinary—who comes of age under harsh circumstances, negotiating the wildness of his home country, of his human relationships, and of the emerging complexities of his own being.


JOHN DANIEL’s books of prose, including Rogue River Journal and The Far Corner, have won three Oregon Book Awards for Literary Nonfiction, a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, and have been supported by a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, among other grants and awards. His essays and poems have appeared in Wilderness Magazine, Orion, Sierra, Terrain.org, The North American Review, Poetry, The Southern Review, and other journals and anthologies. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, he has taught as a writer-in-residence at colleges and universities across the country. Earlier in life he was a logger, hod carrier, railroader, and rock-climbing instructor. Daniel lives with his wife, Marilyn Daniel, in the Coast Range foothills west of Eugene, Oregon. Gifted is his first novel.
For review copy or interview requests, please contact:
Bethany Onsgard, Publicist

(510) 704-0230 x215


Advance Praise for Gifted

Read the reviews.

“Part Catcher in the Rye, part Sometimes a Great Notion, John Daniel’s novel vividly evokes the emotional tempest of youth, the cultures and subcultures of the Pacific Northwest, and the rainwashed, animal-rich forests of Oregon’s Coast Range.”
—Scott Slovic, University of Idaho, editor of ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment

“With ‘Gifted,’ John Daniel has given us a lyrical, soaring tale that is deeply affecting.... [He] has written a transformative novel I will never forget."
—Garth Stein, author The Art of Racing in the Rain and A Sudden Light

“When Huck Finn lit out for the Territory, no doubt he found a mysterious, magical world much like that in John Daniel's modern coming-of-age tale.  The glories, the violence, the stirring spirit that fashioned our nation continue, and are vividly chronicled in this bold and generous novel.  Daniel has re-seen and re-gifted us all with our deepest, most cherished American stories, expressed here with poetic precision, amplitude, grace.”
—Tracy Daugherty, author of What Falls Away and The Boy Orator

“The gifts that relieve the guilt and losses suffered by John Daniel’s teenage hero come from the living matrix we call nature—rivers and mountains, lion and coyote and bear, stars and storms and throngs of birds—and from human guides—foster parents, a wise elder, a backwoods sage, two lovers, and a sympathetic judge.  All of these redemptive figures, human and greater-than-human, are vividly rendered by a writer whose feeling for language and landscape shines from every page.”
—Scott Russell Sanders, author of Divine Animal and Earth Works

"I take John Daniel's Gifted as personally as my own Willamette Valley boyhood. Henry Fielder brought back 1,247 things I've lived. The joys and sorrows of full sensory immersion in an astoundingly beautiful, grievously wounded place. Being fed by both the beauty and the woundings. Coming of age, or trying to, in an industrial anti-culture that sees the adoration of trillium, ancient trees, wild places, and early mystical experience as "alienation." When Henry finally set down his pen I experienced a small miracle: the teen in me bowing, feeling completely understood and vindicated, half a century after the fact."
— David James Duncan, author of The River Why and The Brothers K

Gifted tells of growing up in the semi-outback and sometimes dangerous Coast Range of Oregon. It grows and rings as it matures. John Daniel has been one of our finest for a long while. He is to be congratulated again.”
— William Kittredge, author of A Hole in the Sky and The Willow Field