Book of John, The

Book of John, The

A record of loss, reckoning, and the meaning of the human place in natures large design.


John Thompson thinks he’s going to have an easy summer. Instead he runs into an archeological discovery that will shake the field, his field, to its core. Fifty years old, overweight, married to someone who has aided and abetted his career while never forcing him to deal with his own deep-seated insecurities, John flees to the most extreme place he knows: the Makah Indian community at Neah Bay, Washington. Exposed to the endless rain and relentless sea of the Olympic Peninsula, John is confronted with a people desperate to rejuvenate their ancient whaling tradition, and the ghost of an old love affair John has tried to bury for years. In surefooted, lyrical prose, Niles explores what it means to excavate a life out of the wreckage of the past, and the ramifications of keeping secrets for far too long. Fans of Kingsolver, Haruf, Larry Watson and even James Lee Burke will find her fast-paced dialogue, intense understanding of the natural world, and devout compassion for humanity’s darker side both familiar and wrought in shining new terms.


The Book of John is a revelation—a wise, deeply observant book about nature, about regret, about love. Kate Niles has given us an unforgettable cast of characters, each on their own complicated journey toward healing. The past, she reminds us, breathes right along with the present when we excavate the bones of our memory, dig through the ruins of our heart. ~ Gayle Brandeis, author of The Book of Dead Birds and Self Storage

"As both artist and archaeologist, Kate Niles conjoins crafts to illustrate the buried truths of the Southwest's prehistoric people—a colorful history that pulses even now with both passion and savagery. Like ancient Clovis points unearthed from the Four Corners’ desert catacombs, her prose is at once brutish and elegant, her characters flintknapped to perfection. Together they deliver fatal blows to the illusion that, in our attempts at progress and civility, we have not lost something utterly vital. In Book of John, Niles has performed the most difficult of excavations—that of the howling human heart.” ~ Amy Irvine, Author of Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land and winnder of the 2008 Orion Award for Best Nature Writing

Kate Niles has given us a fascinating, multi-layered novel. With prodigious knowledge and lyrical prose she takes us on a journey through the myriad landscapes of the American west, from the red rock canyons of the Four Corners and the sere deserts of the Great Basin to the lush, verdant coastline of the Pacific Northwest. With powerful imagery she takes us into a place of ancient atrocity and into the modern halls of academe where archaeologists attempt to understand that atrocity. Niles maps all these territories with authority. But as we follow her compelling protagonist, John, on his often painful journey of self-discovery, we find that Niles is equally at home in the complex terrain of the human heart. ~ Paula Huntley, Author of bestseller The Hemingway Bookclub of Kosovo

The Book of John does for archeology what The Secret Garden did for inconspicuous little doors—changed forever how we see our world. ~ Christopher Noel, author of In the Unlikely Event of a Water Landing and Impossible Visits

Kate Niles sees more than most. Sees deeper. Farther. And what she observes she transforms into story and scene woven through language that both simmers with beauty and pierces with untempered insight and honesty into the human -- and more-than-human -- condition. In THE BOOK OF JOHN, Niles again has such a vision to share. This time the story is about one man's long journey to a home -- to several homes -- he had forgotten, and sometimes didn't realize he had. It is a lovely and difficult path and vision. And once again, Niles' clear-sighted prose conjures in each of us visions of our own forgotten homes. ~ Ken Wright, Author of THE MONKEY WRENCH DAD and WHY I'M AGAINST IT ALL

Kate Niles
Kate Niles Kate Niles is the award-winning author of the novel The Basket Maker. She also has a book of poetry, Geographies of the Heart, and is widely...
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