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“Darnielle explores the savage possibility of every moment by constructing a world, whose residents are primal, irresponsible, kind, and forgiving in equal measure. Their choices unfold universes of wonder and sorrow, and the consequences of consequences of consequences of their actions ricochet off each other endlessly toward a mysterious inevitability…”— Steve(n)
“Darnielle is an outstanding storyteller writing about lives on the outside edges of society and the extreme moments in those lives. Sean, the narrator of Wolf in White Van, has had an isolated existence since he was disfigured at the age of 17. As the creator of a mail-based role-playing game called Trace Italian, Sean influences the lives of others in unexpected, unintended ways. Wolf in White Van is captivating, haunting, and powerful. Highly recommended!”
— Carol Schneck Varner, Schuler Books & Music, Okemos, MI
Long-listed for the 2014 National Book Award in fiction
Winner of the 2015 Alex Award for adult books with special appeal for young adults
"Welcome to Trace Italian, a game of strategy and survival You may now make your first move." Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of seventeen, Sean Phillips crafts imaginary worlds for strangers to play in. From his small apartment in southern California, he orchestrates fantastic adventures where possibilities, both dark and bright, open in the boundaries between the real and the imagined. As the creator of Trace Italian a text-based, role-playing game played through the mail Sean guides players from around the world through his intricately imagined terrain, which they navigate and explore, turn by turn, seeking sanctuary in a ravaged, savage future America.
Lance and Carrie are high school students from Florida, explorers of the Trace. But when they take their play into the real world, disaster strikes, and Sean is called to account for it. In the process, he is pulled back through time, tunneling toward the moment of his own self-inflicted departure from the world in which most people live.
Brilliantly constructed, "Wolf in White Van" unfolds in reverse until we arrive at both the beginning and the climax: the event that has shaped so much of Sean's life. Beautifully written and unexpectedly moving, John Darnielle's audacious and gripping debut novel is a marvel of storytelling brio and genuine literary delicacy.