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The Way Through the Woods


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About the Author

Long Litt Woon (born 1958 in Malaysia) is an anthropologist and Norwegian Mycological Association–certified mushroom professional. She first visited Norway as a young exchange student. There she met and married Norwegian Eiolf Olsen. She currently lives in Oslo, Norway. According to Chinese naming tradition, ‘Long’ is her surname and ‘Litt Woon’ her first name.

Barbara J. Haveland (born 1951) is a Scots-born literary translator resident in Copenhagen. She translates fiction, poetry, and drama from Norwegian and Danish to English, and has translated works by many leading Danish and Norwegian writers. Her most recent published works include new translations of The Master Builder and Little Eyolf by Henrik Ibsen and the first two volumes of Carl Frode Tiller’s Encircling trilogy.


‘Long’s book, in which she recounts how mycology helped her to recover from the death of her husband, could hardly be better timed ... People talk, in these fractious times, about mindfulness. They wonder how to shut out the din, and get back to the important, elemental things in life. Mushrooms, here only fleetingly and easily damaged, do this effortlessly.’
*The Observer*

‘An inspiring page-turner.’
*Jokha Alharthi, author of Celestial Bodies*

‘An incredible story of pain and loss and grief.’
*On Your Farm BBC Radio 4*

‘An ode to resilience, humour and change.’
*Simple Things*

‘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*

‘A thoughtful meditation on bereavement … full of intriguing detail.’

‘It is poetic, warm and moving, and steeped in life wisdom’.
*Sissel Gran, Norwegian psychologist and author*

‘The Way Through the Woods will make a lovely gift for the curious bushwalker, recently bereaved person, or even the niche hobbyist in your life.’

‘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*

‘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.’

‘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.’
*Library Journal*

‘[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.’

‘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*

‘Among the 20 “utterly engrossing” non-fiction books for the summer of 2019.’

‘Long Litt Woon delivers, in addition to an accurate mycology, a little lesson in wisdom.’
*Hebdo Books*

‘Poetic, moving, original. One of the books we talked about this year.’
*L’Escapade Bookstore*

‘Like mushrooms themselves, The Way Through the Woods is surprising, comforting, and completely engrossing. Woon takes us foraging not just through the fascinating world of fungi but also through her personal grief. Like The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating and H is for Hawk her gorgeous, intimate encounter with unfamiliar species teaches us that observing nature carefully is both inspiring and healing.’
*Juli Berwald, author of Spineless: the science of jellyfish and the art of growing a backbone*

‘Existential questions as tasty as morels.’

‘An informative and playful book, sensitive and without pathos. Long Litt Woon’s enthusiasm is highly contagious.’
*Tela Botanica*

‘A jewel.’
*La revue numérique de l’alca*

‘She can make her subject captivating by pressing all the buttons of the curious reader of nature.’
*Cri de l’ormeau*

‘Remarkable, pedagogical, original, delightful.’
*Voyage dans les lettres nordiques*

‘A moving and unexpectedly funny book … Long tells the story of finding hope after despair lightly and artfully, with self-effacement and so much gentle good nature … seeing Long’s capacity for wonder and even contentment in the midst of her sadness feels like seeing tiny shoots of grass peeking from the ash in a landscape stripped bare by fire.'
*The New York Times*

‘The Way Through the Woods is a personal view of the world of mushrooming though the eyes of an anthropologist who took up mushrooming to move forward through grief after the sudden death of her husband. It was great to see how Norway mushrooming culture was similar and different from that of the United States culture, while cheering for the author as she struggled to accept and embrace her new life. Anyone interested in these subjects will enjoy this book as much as I did.’
*‘Wildman’ Steve Brill, naturalist, environmental educator, and author of Foraging New York*

‘When Malaysian-born anthropologist Long Litt Woon’s husband of 32 years dropped dead at work one summer’s morning, she lost not only the love of her life but her passport to society in her adopted home of Norway. Numb with grief, she had only platitudes to navigate her way through the wilderness of bereavement — until she found unexpected joy and a new tribe of friends who shared an offbeat interest: picking mushrooms in the Norwegian woods.’
*Courier Mail*

‘A Malaysian woman mourns the death of her Norwegian husband by foraging for mushrooms — from morels to Yellow Knights — in this singular memoir in which the author becomes a “traveler in the fungi kingdom”.’
*The Oprah Magazine, ‘10 August Books You Should Read Right Now’*

‘There’s something of the really life fairytale about the way mushrooms guided Long Litt Woon through the woods of grief after her husband’s sudden death ... “To feel the flow is to find meaning, and to find meaning is to quiet and transform the storm inside.” In this way, mushrooming becomes an apt and mysterious metaphor for mourning’s “fieldwork of the heart” and the unexpected consolations it can yield.’
*The Age*

‘[W]ritten by an exceptional woman who deigns to let us in on her unusual way through grief ... you will learn a lot about how she perceives people (indeed they appear to be her favourite subject second only to fungi) and her notes on human existence will delight and humour you ... you will also learn more about mushrooms than you ever knew you needed. [Woon] balances hefty scientific antidotes with the truly fantastic places her mushroom research has taken her. From perfumers to poison guides, there is nothing Woon will describe that won’t leave you hungry for more. A truly wonderful book about life and grief and mushrooms, The Way Through The Woods deserves all the praise it has been reaping and more.’
*The Seattle Book Review*

‘Woon writes about meeting new friends happy to wander through the Norwegian woods with her, spellbound by the hunt. As peculiar as that may sound to most people, mushroom hunters will understand immediately the peculiar joy of discovering fungi, especially rare ones, deep in the beautiful and mysterious woods ... Long is a poetic writer who melds what at first seem to be the most disparate possible topics into a profound and beautiful memoir, and one that is not at all just for mushroom enthusiasts.’

‘The Way Through the Woods was enchanting, made me want to go mushroom picking and learn how to do it properly!’
*Megha Majumdar, author of A Burning*

‘A gorgeous meditation on love, loss and belonging, The Way Through the Woods stayed with me for weeks after I finished it. Long Litt Woon has written a book that will reaffirm your belief in the strength and beauty of the human spirit.’
*Tash Aw, author of We, the Survivors*

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