CA Mushrooms
CA Mushrooms

Book Review


By Ellen King Rice
Undergrowth Publishing
2019; 284 pages
ISBN: 9781733827607
Paperback $15

Lichenwald is the third in a series of myco-fiction by award-winning author Ellen King Rice. While I enjoyed her first book, The EvoAngel, that story was a science fiction thriller and I have to admit to not being much of a fan of that genre. Lichenwald, set in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, is a real-world suspense story of dementia, manipulations, crimes unfolding, and the joys of unexpected friendships. And lichens (and mushrooms, too—Ms. Rice is a mycologist, after all)!

I very much enjoy her writing style, witty and engaging. And Rice’s understanding of human nature is spot on. She “gets” their predicaments; several of the main characters are small liberal arts college professors, struggling with funding, class size, work load, etc.—all familiar subjects to me and Rice very accurately depicts this (cringeworthily at times). And the writer very nicely incorporates the botanical and mycological worlds into the story adeptly without being preachy. Readers of FUNGI will definitely enjoy this book!

About the author. Olympic Peninsula-based Ellen King Rice is a former wildlife biologist with passions for epigenetics and fungi. In her younger years she served as a wildlife conservation officer, a big game manager, an endangered species biologist and as a lobbyist for environmental issues. After a spinal cord injury halted her fieldwork, Rice discovered new outlets for her energy, including writing. Wild mushrooms became the centerpiece of her first story, The EvoAngel, published in 2016. Undergrowth followed in 2018, which brings us to Lichenwald. Each novel combines science with action and is very fungus-friendly. (Rumor has it that Ellen King Rice is now at work on a thriller featuring acellular slime molds.) As mentioned, her work has garnered awards. Rice was the winner of a 2020 IPPY Gold medal for Best Regional Fiction for Lichenwald, a 2019 Silver Medal IPPY award for Undergrowth, and a Wishing Shelf Book Awards finalist for The EvoAngel.

— Review by Britt Bunyard
— Originally published in Fungi