The Painted Forest

WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY PRESS, OCTOBER 2019

In this often-surprising book of essays, Krista Eastman explores the myths we make about who we are and where we’re from. The Painted Forest uncovers strange and little-known “home places”—not only the picturesque hills and valleys of the author’s childhood in rural Wisconsin, but also tourist towns, the “under-imagined and overly caricatured” Midwest, and a far-flung station in Antarctica where the filmmaker Werner Herzog makes an unexpected appearance.

The Painted Forest upends easy narratives of place, embracing tentativeness and erasing boundaries. But it is Eastman’s willingness to play—to follow her curiosity down every odd path, to exude a skeptical wonder—that gives this book depth and distinction. An unlikely array of people, places, and texts meet for close conversation, and tension is diffused with art, imagination, and a strong sense of there being some other way forward. Eastman offers a smart and contemporary take on how we wander and how we belong.


The Painted Forest is a surprising and tender book in which a reader might be reminded of the considered natural observations of Annie Dillard, the unrelenting gaze of Lia Purpura, or the masterful storytelling of Jo Ann Beard. Eastman is interested in interrogating the history and ethos of several specific places, including her own home state of Wisconsin, as well as elegantly demonstrating the ways in which landscapes shift and morph through generations and recall.