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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Net Beneath Us

Narrator: Cassandra Campbell

ISBN: 9781250870810

Publisher: Forge Books

Macmillan Audio

Publication Date: 09/13/2022

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

Carol Dunbar, drawing from her own lived experiences, vividly describes the wonder and harshness of life off the grid. Told over the course of a year, The Net Beneath Us is a lyrical exploration of loss, marriage, parenthood, and self-reliance; a tale of how the natural world—without and within us—offers us healing, if we can learn where to look.

He promised her he would never let go. She’s willing to risk everything to hold on.

In the aftermath of her husband’s logging accident, Elsa has more questions than answers about how to carry on while caring for their two small children in the unfinished house he was building for them in the woods of rural Wisconsin. To cope with the challenges of winter and the near-daily miscommunications from her in-laws, she forges her own relationship with the land, learning from and taking comfort in the trees her husband had so loved. If she wants to stay in their home, she must discover her own capabilities, and accept help from the people and places she least expects.

My Review

THE NET BENEATH US by Carol Dunbar is beautifully written, evocative, and thought-provoking. Sprinkled with metaphors and symbols from the healing nature of the land, trees, and forest.

Like nature and humans, there are vast contrasts. Both beautiful and dangerous. Trees and their wisdom are essential elements of the novel, reflective and meditative. THE BRAVE TREE.

Between Dunbar's evocative and lyrical prose and Cassandra Campbell's flawless and emotional narration of this captivating audiobook, THE NET BENEATH US is a "must-read" debut for fans of literary fiction. A spellbinding novel of survival and hope.

He promised her he would never let go.

She's willing to risk everything to hold on.

A story of a young family, Silas, and Elsa, building their home in rural Wisconsin. When a logging accident changes everything. Silas is in a coma.

Wife and mother, Elsa, must maneuver and determine the best way to remain on the land with two small children with no running water or conveniences. A brutal winter is approaching. There is no firewood for heat, and she has no help. She is haunted by her regrets and determined to stay put. But how?

With two small children and the rough winter approaching, she pushes herself to be self-reliant when she cannot depend on her in-laws or others. She takes comfort in the trees and nature her husband loved. She is wracked with grief and regret. She must stay in this home when others think she should leave.

She digs deep inside herself, but she must accept help from others. She struggles with staying and a lot of manual work, too much for a single woman, or leaving the land her husband loved to move back to modern society and conveniences. She is conflicted.

In alternating chapters, told from four main characters' POV: Else, her five-year-old daughter, Hester, and her late husband's aunt and uncle, Luvera, and Ethan.

Luvera and Elsa are in many ways opposites as women. Luvera is a practical farm wife; Elsa is a dreamer who paints.

All four of the main characters in this story are struggling with their regrets. Luvera regrets never having children; Ethan regrets not going out for one last beer with his brother; Elsa realizes that Silas was the "greatest love of her life, and she'd reciprocated that love too late.

When a stranger shows up, Big Al, Elsa, is not sure he can be trusted.

A lyrical exploration of loss, marriage, parenthood, and self-reliance. From regrets, loss, despair, grief, survival, joy, love, acceptance, and healing.

A stunning debut I cannot wait to read more from this author. I highly recommend the audiobook, as Cassandra Campbell is always a favorite narrator.

Full of heart told over a year, Dunbar draws from her own experience living off the grid in Northern Wisconsin.

A special thank you to #MacmillanAudio and #NetGalley for an ALC for an honest review. #SMPInfluencers

@JudithDCollins |#JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating: 5 Stars

Pub Date: Sept 12, 2022


“Dunbar delivers both a tumble through the shifting light of grief, and a forgiving forest floor on which to land.”—Leif Enger, New York Times bestselling author of Peace Like a River and Virgil Wander

“There are novels that we enjoy, but the most memorable ones, and The Net Beneath Us is one of these, leave readers with a sense that our lives have been enriched. An astonishing debut.” ―Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena and Above the Waterfall

“Drawing from her own experience living off the grid in northern Wisconsin, Dunbar's debut novel encapsulates what it means to come home to oneself. ”


“Containing wisdom as deeply rooted as a Wisconsin forest, The Net Beneath Us is an evocative and beautifully written meditation on grief and the lasting power of friendship. A story that reminds us that in difficult times, showing vulnerability can be the ultimate act of strength.”

―Lucy Tan, author of What We Were promised

Narrated by Cassandra Campbell

About the Author

CAROL DUNBAR is a former actor, playwright, and coloratura soprano who left her life in the city to move off the grid. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The South Carolina Review, Midwestern Gothic, and on Wisconsin Public Radio. She writes from a solar-powered office on the second floor of a water tower in northern Wisconsin, where she lives in a house in the woods with her husband, two kids, and a giant Alaskan malamute. The Net Beneath Us is her first novel. WEBSITE







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