JOELLE FRASER / The Forest House: A Year’s Journey into the Landscape of Love, Loss, and Starting Over
“We were moving to a beautiful but slightly dangerous place, a tiny one-bedroom house on ninety-seven wooded acres at the end of Diamond Fall Road, at the county line, just before the pavement ends and the road turns to dirt and tunnels into the trees. The driveway is a steep narrow dirt road, a quarter mile long, with two doglegs on the way up. Like the few other houses out this way, mine is hidden, much like a little nest, in the forest that begins here and continues for hundreds of miles into the mountain ranges of the northern Sierras and southern Cascades. This felt truly to be the edge of the world I knew.”
Reeling from a divorce and devastated by the reality of joint custoday – losing half of her young son’s life – Joelle Fraser resolves to stay in the small mountain town where her son’s father lives. The only place close enough, yet far enough away, is an ornery one-bedroom home tucked away on a lonely back road in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Miles away from town and the nearest neighbor, Joelle must quickly become self-sufficient. Her first winter brings severe storms and power outages, and the realization that mountain lions and rattlesnakes might be the least of her fears in this place of strange silence and endless wilderness.
As months pass and seasons change, Fraser learns how to live on her own – all on her own – aside from her son’s visits. Delving into the history of her family from the confines of the forest house, Fraser recounts the tragic story of her great-grandmother, who in 1919 emigrated from Sweden leaving her six children behind. Ultimately, fraser learns to accept her choices, and discovers gratitude beneath her pain.
Joelle Fraser has MFAs from Eastern Washinton University and the University of Iowa; she is a two-time MacDowel Fellow. Her work has appeared in many literary journals, including Hawaii Pacific Review, High Desert Journal, Michigan Quarterly Review, Fourth Genre, Crazyhorse, Zyzzyva, and The Iowa Review. She’s also the author of The Territory of Men. Fraser lives near Reno.