Book Review: Lumberjack by Anthony Engebretson


Publisher: Tenebrous Press

There’s a curse on Arbor Lodge—an elusive demon reclaiming the illustrious home in the name of the prairie—and its owner,  J. Sterling Morton, a proud statesman, is desperate. 

It couldn’t be more fortuitous for lumberjack Neville, whose greatest desire is to prove himself a true man to the world. 

Morton offers respect, security, pride, even the father figure Neville never had; and all the lumberjack has to do is find and kill this creature.

There’s no doubt in Neville’s mind that he deserves to rise to the status of legend. He will prevail. It’s in his blood.

Or else, his blood will be in the prairie.

James Sabata’s BOOK REVIEW: LUMBERJACK By Anthony Engebretson


Let me start by telling you this book isn’t for everyone. That’s okay.

Let me add that I grew up in Nebraska and often found myself on field trips to Arbor Lodge, the real-life setting for 90% of this book.

So maybe a piece of me was highly primed for this book, but I don’t think that’s it. I think if a reader had no idea that Arbor Lodge (or even Nebraska) was a real place, Engebretson’s writing would draw you in and make you want to follow Neville’s descent. However, the use of this historically significant setting helps instantly tap into the mindset of the time of the book and provides a bigger picture of the world Neville inhabits.

The fact that most of the book takes place inside the walls/on the grounds of Arbor Lodge additionally helps root the story while providing a reason for isolation, power, and enchantment one would not wish to work to escape.


Is it obsession? Is it madness? Is it the need to find love and validation? An unlikeable main character, Neville isn’t the worst of us, but he is a manifestation of each of those traits… and then turned sideways and given too much credence without enough accountability. And it’s a true joy to watch as Neville hacks away at his own ability to become the great man he wishes to be.

Neville Gibbons isn’t just a lumberjack who may or may not be losing his mind while hunting for a creature with glowing yellow eyes. He’s a man dealing fighting for control of his emotions and always failing. As we watch Neville’s needs for love, validation, acceptance, and praise, we see reflections of our own selves and how easily feeding the wrong parts of psyche could lead us down the paths of ruin as well. We watch him sinker more and more, understanding his thought processes and where he went wrong along the way.

Neville is a piece of us. And, most likely, the piece we wish we could bury out back under the big Bur Oak tree.


This book cracks some interesting themes from weird Eco Horror to toxic masculinity, racism, family issues, colonization and colonialism and even Manifest Destiny in more than one form. It shows us the innermost thoughts of an insecure man held together by the idea is better than others when all evidence points to the contrary.

Engebretson blurs the lines between insanity and reality. How much is hallucination? Imagination? Power of suggestion? I still don’t know. Nor does it matter. For the reader, much like Neville, it’s all the same.


Part creature feature, part slasher, part psychological thriller, part eco horror, part… a million other things. I love stories that fit into so many categories and do it effectively.

Overall, Engebretson’s writing style was up my alley.  This book is a quick read with mostly great pacing. There’s a couple points I would’ve liked things to go faster, particularly early, but as things kicked in, they were great.

I love the character of Thomas. For the short “screen time” he gets comparatively, he felt the most well fleshed out and alive to me. There are a few points where the story is from his point of view, and while more might have pulled away from the questions of what was real or not and why, I would’ve loved to live in Thomas’s head much longer than we got to.

The last chapter of the story was not what I wanted, but I was not disappointed. The ending went to a logical (for the story) point, but I had set myself up for a different confrontation. Such is life. :)

I still highly recommend this book, particularly if you’re looking for shorter reads with a lot of stuff you probably haven’t seen before.