Trinity University Press

Open Midnight

Where Ancestors and Wilderness Meet

Brooke Williams (author)

A memoir of wilderness, metaphysical transformation, ancestral immigration, and Charles Darwin

Open Midnight weaves two parallel stories about the great wilderness—Brooke Williams’s year alone with his dog, ground truthing backcountry maps of southern Utah, and that of his great-great-great-grandfather, William Williams, who in 1863 made his way with a group of Mormons from England across the ocean and the American wild almost to Utah, dying a week short. The story follows two levels of history—personal, as represented by his forbear, and collective, as represented by Charles Darwin, who lived in Shrewsbury, England, at about the same time as William Williams.

As Brooke Williams begins researching the story of his oldest known ancestor, he realizes he's armed with few facts. He wonders if a handful of dates can tell the story of a life, writing, “If those points were stars in the sky, we would connect them to make a constellation, which is what I’ve made with his life by creating the parts missing from his story.” Thus William Williams becomes a kind of spiritual guide, a shamanlike consciousness that accompanies the author on his wilderness and life journeys, appearing at pivotal points when the author is required to choose a certain course.

The mysterious presence of his ancestor inspires Williams to create imagined scenes in which his ancestor meets Darwin in Shrewsbury, sowing something central in the DNA that eventually passes to  Williams, whose life has been devoted to nature and wilderness. Grounded in the present by his descriptions of the Utah lands he explores, Williams's vivid prose pushes boundaries and investigates new ways toward knowledge and experience, inviting readers to think unconventionally about how we experience reality, spirituality, and the wild.

Open Midnight beautifully evokes the feeling of being solitary in the wild, at home in the deepest sense, in the presence of the sublime.


  • Designated as Finalist for Association for Mormon Letters Creative Non-Fiction Award
  • Winner of 15 Bytes Book Award in Nonfiction


“"... a complex book.... In a partly imagined biography reconstructed from the few details of William Williams' life that still survive, Williams follows his ancestor's journey from Shrewsbury, Darwin's hometown, to death on the wagon crossing of Wyoming." ”

Moab Sun News

“Brooke Williams weaves together personal and collective history to show how the outer, physical wilderness grants access to one’s own inner wilderness.”

Moab Times-Independent

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Open Midnight cover
  • Price: $17.95 buy »
  • Pages: 232
  • Size: 5 X 8
  • Published: Mar 2017
  • Status: Available
  • ISBN: 9781595348036
  • Illustrations: 3
  • Price: $17.95
  • Published: Mar 2017
  • Status: Available
  • ISBN: 9781595348043


Memoir, Nature