The Understory

An Invitation to Rootedness and Resilience from the Forest Floor

Cover Art

Where to Purchase

More Options


"Walk in the woods with me."

That's the invitation award-winning author Lore Ferguson Wilbert extends to readers in The Understory.

On this journey, Wilbert shares her story of alienation and disorientation after years of religious and political unrest in the evangelical church. In doing so, she looks to an unlikely place--the forest--to learn how to live and even thrive when everything seems to be falling apart. What can we learn from eroding soil, the decomposition process, the time it takes to grow lichen, the beauty of fiddlehead ferns, the regeneration of self-sowing seeds, and walking through the mud? Here, among the understory of the forest, Wilbert discovers rich metaphors for living a rooted and flourishing life within the complex ecosystems of our world. Her tenderness and honesty will help readers grieve, remember, hope, and press on with resilience.


Part 1: Seen
Here Is Loss
Here Is Here: Space
Here Is Truth: Land
Part 2: Unseen
Here Is Hurt: Soil
Here Is Grief: Forest Litter
Here Is Time: Lichen
Here Is Protection: Nursemaids
Part 3: Revealed
Here Is Emergence: Weeds
Here Is Resilience: Mycelia
Here Is Movement: Forest


"Both timeless and timely, this book is one I didn't know I was waiting for. In The Understory, Lore Ferguson Wilbert tells the truth, and she tells it beautifully well in this, her best and most compelling work yet."

Emily P. Freeman, author of The Next Right Thing and How to Walk into a Room

"We need to set down roots before we can grow into whatever light the world offers; this is a remarkably acute and resonant account of what those roots might look like. We can move from our home soil, but we can't leave soil behind altogether!"

Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature

"The Understory spoke to me in a rare and beautiful way--acknowledging the pain that exists in our cultural moment while celebrating the hope present in and around us. Lore Ferguson Wilbert offers us a profound gift with this book, and I'm grateful for the way she's helping us reimagine a new way forward."

Aundi Kolber, MA, LPC, therapist; author of Try Softer and Strong Like Water

"Powerful, poised, poetic. Lore Ferguson Wilbert preaches like a prophet and writes like a friend who makes you feel safe and seen. Reverent and timely, The Understory will tend to those aching wounds and wonders buried deep within. This book is a sacred unraveling of the truth that remains hidden in plain sight: that life is inextricably intertwined with loss and yet the natural world flourishes not in spite of this but because of it. Welcome Wilbert's words and let these lessons from the forest floor enchant and invite you to flourish right where you are."

Rachel Marie Kang, author of Let There Be Art and The Matter of Little Losses

"The Understory is part Wendell Berry, part Eugene Peterson, and part Madeleine L'Engle. The result is sheer magic. Wilbert writes with a kind of desperate longing--hungry, thirsty, and violently pursuing the truth of God in our stories--and the result is glorious. Read this book and be ever changed."

A. J. Swoboda, associate professor of Bible and theology, Bushnell University; author of After Doubt

"The Understory speaks to the quiet grief many of us carry. In naming that sorrow, Wilbert offers us a rare gift: raw honesty devoid of cynicism. This is precisely the book the church needs for this moment in history, but its message, like the forest that serves as the book's subject, is timeless."

Amanda Held Opelt, author of Holy Unhappiness and A Hole in the World

"What Lore Ferguson Wilbert has given us in The Understory is more than just a book--far beyond words on a page--but an invitation into an entirely different way of seeing and being in the world. A way shaped not by the demands of performance and production but instead concerned with the radical act of being. Looking to the forest floor as her teacher, Wilbert invites us to peel back the veil and listen to the wisdom that lies just beneath the surface."

Drew Jackson, poet and author of God Speaks through Wombs and Touch the Earth

The Author

  1. Lore Ferguson Wilbert
    Ashley McCauley, 2020

    Lore Ferguson Wilbert

    Lore Ferguson Wilbert is the author of A Curious Faith and Handle with Care, which won a 2021 Christianity Today Book Award. She writes at Wilbert has written for Christianity Today, Fathom magazine, and She...

    Continue reading about Lore Ferguson Wilbert