** Longlisted for The Center for Fiction's best debut novel of 2019 **
With the hypnotic intensity of Emily Fridlund’s The History of Wolves and Fiona McFarlane’s The Night Guest, Katherine Forbes Riley has created a mesmerizing love story, in lush, gorgeous prose, that examines art, science, and the magic of human chemistry.
"Teeming with lush imagery and mystical settings, and brimming with alluring magical realism, Riley’s tale is a beguiling journey of discovery and recovery.” — Booklist
Haunting and lyrical, The Bobcat is Katherine Forbes Riley’s magical debut novel in which Laurelie, a young art student who suffers in the aftermath of a sexual assault, has grown progressively more isolated and fearful. She transfers from her busy city university to a small college in rural Vermont, where she retreats into her vivid imagination, experiencing the world through her art. Most comfortable in the company of the child for whom she babysits, and most at ease in the woods, Laurelie has shunned any connection with her peers.
One day, while exploring the woods, she and her young charge encounter an injured pregnant bobcat – and the hiker who has been following it for hundreds of miles. In the hiker and his feline companion Laurelie recognizes someone as reclusive and wary as herself. The hiker, too, finds human companionship painful to endure, yet he is drawn to wounded Laurelie the way he is drawn to the bobcat. As Laurelie moves toward recovery and reconnection she also finds her voice as an artist, and a sense of purpose, maybe even a future, comes into sight. Then the child goes missing in the woods, threatening the bobcat, the hiker, and the fragile peace Laurelie has constructed.
About the Author
Katherine Forbes Riley is a writer and computational linguist in Vermont. Katherine's writing appears in the Wigleaf 2018 top 50 list, as well as HCE Review, Ginosko, Gone Lawn, Blue Monday Review, decomP, Fiction Southeast, Noö, Spartan, Jellyfish Review, Conium, James Franco Review, Mulberry Fork, Paper Nautilus, Halfway Down The Stairs, Crack the Spine, Storyscape, Whiskey Island, Lunch Ticket, Eunoia, Literary Orphans, Eclectica, BlazeVOX, McNeese Review, Akashic Books, and Buffalo Almanack, from whom she received the Inkslinger’s Award for Creative Excellence. She finished her magical debut, The Bobcat , during the 2016-17 academic year, while a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome. She lives near Dartmouth College, in Norwich, VT.
PRAISE FOR THE BOBCAT: A NOVEL "Teeming with lush imagery and mystical settings, and brimming with alluring magical realism, Riley’s tale is a beguiling journey of discovery and recovery.”— Booklist
“Many novels feature wild animals as central metaphors, but not many novels achieve the congruity of The Bobcat.”— LitHub
"An unpredictable yet lovely exploration into healing trauma and building trust. The story centers art student Laurelie as she attempts to put the pieces of her life back together after surviving a sexual assault. Artists, nature lovers and survivors will find something here to inspire hope and healing.”— Ms. Magazine's 2019 June Reads for the Rest of Us
“The Bobcat is a heartfelt, revelatory, and moving novel about how the way back to our humanity and to the humanity of others leads us sometimes through the animal world. Surprising, precise, and full of love for the immeasurable possibilities of the human heart.” — Alexander Chee, PEN award finalist and author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
“It would be easy—and true—to say that Katharine Forbes Riley’s The Bobcat moves the way that beautiful feline does: with sinuous grace, coiled wildness, and ferocious independence. Yet this novel braves more than that. It probes and tests the lines between the animal and the human, safety and threat, art and daily life, health and illness through characters and language of luminous intensity and rare, real power. Haunting, haunted, truly elegant, this novel will stalk your dreams and days in equal measure.” — Charlotte Bacon, PEN award-winning author of A Private State
“In The Bobcat, Katherine Forbes Riley has created an honest, unflinching account of the aftermath of a sexual assault. There is profound empathy in the novel’s depiction of the wounded young artist Laurelie, and Riley’s great accomplishment is to show the tortured process by which this courageous woman stumblingly, imperfectly, navigates a hostile world while simultaneously recreating herself. A strange beauty pervades the novel, even in Laurelie's descriptions of her own terror—the sort of beauty born of careful design. This narrative is dead set on bringing the reader face to face with truth. By turns raw, hallucinogenic, redemptive, and always deeply intelligent, it’s a novel of the moment and one that deserves a wide audience.” — Jack Livings, PEN award-winning author of The Dog: Stories
“Katherine Forbes Riley's tender artistry and elegant prose exalt one woman's painful tale of violence in a violent world to a memorable novel where people's capacity for humaneness and love pulsate from the center. The Bobcat is graceful, profound assurance of man's perpetual instincts to refuge in nature and commune with the beasts every time our own humanity or our fellowman fails us.” — Kalisha Buckhanon, author of Solemn
“This novel is mesmerizing! Completely unpredictable and engaging. I loved the sentences and the descriptions and the characters.” — Sarah Blake, author of Naamah
“The Bobcat is an intensely lyrical, deeply involving novel about what it means to be a human animal. Blending gorgeous nature imagery, philosophical curiosity, and a story as insistent as a heartbeat, this book will grab you by the scruff of the neck and won't let go.” — Jennie Yabroff, author of If You Were Here
“Saturated with emotion, vivid and sensual, The Bobcat tells the gripping story of a young woman rebuilding her life and self after trauma. Katherine Forbes Riley takes us deep into the Vermont woods to show the power of nature, art, animal companionship, and human connection. An exquisite debut.” — Julia Phillips, author of The Disappearing Earth
“Equally intimate and expansive, The Bobcat is one of the most unique books I've ever read. Riley's prose works equally as exquisite storytelling and its own thematic device to capture the isolating nature of trauma -- and the path out. All of this is wrapped in very human relationships and lush descriptions of the wilderness for a fast, distinctive read that will haunt you long after the final page.” — Mike Chen, author of Here and Now and Then
“What a beautiful, thoughtful, touching debut. […] The Bobcat had me at turns flipping pages to find out what happens, and re-reading pages to soak in the expansive and lovely prose. Katherine Forbes Riley steps onto the scene like a master storyteller, comfortable in her craft and precise in her presentation. This hauntingly lovely book will be a favorite of book clubs, and people in search of a novel with genuine heart and wonder.” — Meghan Scott Molin, author of The Frame-Up
“Poignant and evocative, lyrical and intimate—and above all startlingly original—Katherine Forbes Riley's mesmerizing debut The Bobcat is one of those rare novels that fully embraces the interiority of its characters while never sacrificing in story or pacing. Written in a unique and elegant style full of richly descriptive prose that captures both the physical landscape of rural Vermont and the fraught psychological territory of its protagonist, this is a beautifully crafted book that dares to access the isolation that haunts us in the aftermath of trauma; it is also a redemptive story about the power of human connection to see us through our darkest moments.” — James Charlesworth, author of The Patricide of George Benjamin Hill
“Riley's riveting novel, The Bobcat, inexorably pulls readers into a strange world full of possible dangers in which the physical and the psychological are rendered in stunning detail. But she reveals, too, the beauty inherent in this world--if you can bear to let it in, if you can learn to trust again. Intense, surprising and thought-provoking, this story ultimately allows that souls and bodies can in fact heal, and that meaningful human connection is both possible and valuable.” — Katrin Schumann, author of The Forgotten Hours
“With its atmospherically picturesque prose and its delicious slow burn of a plot, The Bobcat was a delightful read. Told in gorgeous, crystalline images, etched deeply with detail, the story emerges slowly and satisfyingly. The Bobcat is true literature, and a work of high art.” — Gina Guadagnino, author of The Parting Glass
“You'll want to savor this read. […] Riley's prose is engaging and evocative. I absolutely loved her gift for description and imagery. I can't wait to read more from this talented author.” — Juno Rushdan, author of Every Last Breath
“The Bobcat is a masterpiece of understated grace, an insightful study of trauma and healing, and a work whose narrative power shines with the strength of its skillful prose. […] This realistic portrayal of recovery is light years from the superficial takes we often see in stories, and it makes the narrative that much stronger and more engaging. An extremely impressive debut, The Bobcat is a compelling and rewarding read.” — Dan Stout, author of Titan Shade
“The Bobcat is a mesmerizing lyrical novel that you don’t want to rush through. I savored every beautiful sentence and description of the natural world, the people and animals. Full of empathy and compassion, this is a story about how we heal from trauma and what it takes to begin trusting again.” — Daniela Petrova, author of Her Daughter’s Mother
“A mesmerizing novel, […] Riley uses language, both precise and lushly descriptive, to show how true connection does not depend on words. In an age of tell-all stories and healing through talk therapy, it’s a radical act. Though there is plot and mystery enough to drive this novel, what really powers it is Riley’s profound sense of empathy and her gorgeous writing – about people, animals, the natural world, fear, love and hope. This is the kind of novel that makes you turn the pages to discover what becomes of the hiker, Laurelie, the bobcat and the toddler - and then makes you slow down to savor the telling itself.” — Karen Dukess, author of The Last Book Party
“The novel is richly observed, the depth and detail of its description a particular strength. It has been described as ‘immersive’ and I’ll tell you why: you will lose yourself in this book. The words and sentences are enough to keep you turning the pages, even if the story were less than the fascinating tale that it is. […] The ending is perfect.” — Melanie Golding, author of Little Darlings
“The Bobcat is deeply evocative, written in lush, delicious prose about a wounded young woman and her journey towards healing. With the help of her artwork and an unusual hiker she meets, the two come together, find love in this mystical tale that will linger with readers like a haunting dream. Highly recommend.” — Marlene Adelstein, author of Sophie Last Seen
“In addition to being a moving story of healing, resilience, and love, The Bobcat includes so many lush and exquisite details that make the setting of this novel leap from the page. It also includes a line that, in my opinion, perfectly encapsulates the gift and challenge of being a teacher in the arts. As Laurelie steps into teaching duties herself, she muses how “each student was like a puzzle, finding the right artists to show, the right words to deconstruct their art and make it open up, so the student would see it working just like his or her own.” — Megan Collins, author of The Winter Sister
“I read this beautiful book with my heart in my throat. The world of The Bobcat is immersive, fully saturated, and deeply interior in the best possible way. A visceral and authentic depiction of the aftermath of trauma, the novel is also a moving exploration of the power of artistic creation and its capacity to make sense of both the light and dark sides of human experience.” — Kate Hope Day, author of If, Then
“This book snuck up on me, its quiet fairytale quality perfect for the story of a traumatized young woman’s search for a way out of isolation and fear. Riley’s grasp of nature and art and human psychology are on full display in this spellbinding tale of connection and chemistry. [...] A book to ponder long after the final page.” — Susan Bernhard, author of The Winter Loon
"In The Bobcat, Katherine Forbes Riley has created an honest, unflinching account of the aftermath of a sexual assault. There is profound empathy in the novel’s depiction of the wounded young artist Laurelie, and Riley’s great accomplishment is to show the tortured process by which this courageous woman stumblingly, imperfectly, navigates a hostile world while simultaneously recreating herself. A strange beauty pervades the novel, even in Laurelie's descriptions of her own terror—the sort of beauty born of careful design. This narrative is dead set on bringing the reader face to face with truth. By turns raw, hallucinogenic, redemptive, and always deeply intelligent, it’s a novel of the moment and one that deserves a wide audience."--Jack Livings, author of The Dogs: Stories
"The Bobcat is an intensely lyrical, deeply involving novel about what it means to be a human animal. Blending gorgeous nature imagery, philosophical curiosity, and a story as insistent as a heartbeat, this book will grab you by the scruff of the neck and won't let go."--Jennie Yabroff, author of If You Were Here