Last week, Elizabeth Gilbert announced the forthcoming publication of The Snow Forest, a novel set in Siberia about a family who flee Soviet forces, escaping to the forest where they “protect nature against industrialization.” After an “overwhelming” response from the Ukrainian diaspora over the weekend, Gilbert announced on Twitter on Monday that she was pausing the project.
Important announcement about THE SNOW FOREST. Please note that if you were charged for your pre-order, you will be fully refunded. Thank you so much. pic.twitter.com/OAEmrjtfJx
— Elizabeth Gilbert (@GilbertLiz) June 12, 2023
“I have received an enormous massive outpouring of reactions and responses from my Ukrainian readers exprressing anger, sorrow, disappointment, and pain about the decision that I would choose to release a book right now … set in Russia,” Gilbert stated in the video on Twitter. “I am making a course correction.” The announcement came a week after the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine was severely damaged by an internal blast, flooding the city of Kherson and other towns. Irreplaceable cultural treasures like a cottage painted by artist Polina Rayko were lost in the flooding.
Gilbert stated that now was not the time for her book, and that she would instead focus on other book projects.
Broadly, the magic element in Gilbert’s novel concerns a scientist who stumbles on the family decades later:
Their discovery in 1980 by a team of Soviet geologists will change all of that. One unlikely woman–a scholar and linguist who has spent her life in a different kind of hiding—is sent to the family’s mountaintop to bridge the chasm between modern existence and their ancient, snow forest life.
The story appears to mimic the real-life story of Karp Lykov and his wife and children, who fled the Bolshevik army in the 1930s and lived for decades in the forest in a dirt-floor hut. The family were discovered in 1978 by a team of Soviet geologists.
The Snow Forest was slated for release from Riverhead books on February 24th, 2024. A new date has not yet been announced.