This was not a bad book. It’s actually very well-written which is why I found it so unbelievably depressing to read. So much bad happens and then more bad happens or you learn about bad stuff that happened in the past. I would like to give a huge trigger warning for anyone who has an issue reading about the death of a child. If I had a kid, I would not be able to read this. It was hard enough as it is. But let’s get to the review!
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
American Charles Hayden came to England to forget the past.
Failed father, failed husband, and failed scholar, Charles hopes to put his life back together with a biography of Caedmon Hollow, the long-dead author of a legendary Victorian children’s book, In the Night Wood. But soon after settling into Hollow’s remote Yorkshire home, Charles learns that the past isn’t dead.
In the neighboring village, Charles meets a woman he might have loved, a child who could have been his own lost daughter, and the ghost of a self he thought he’d put behind him.
And in the primeval forest surrounding Caedmon Hollow’s ancestral home, an ancient power is stirring. The horned figure of a long-forgotten king haunts Charles Hayden’s dreams. And every morning the fringe of darkling trees presses closer.
Soon enough, Charles will venture into the night wood.
Soon enough he’ll learn that the darkness under the trees is but a shadow of the darkness that waits inside us all.
Charles and Erin Hayden are moving to England after they find out one of Erin’s relatives has left his estate to her. But it’s not just any relative and not just any estate. The relative is the famous author of the bizarre tale, In the Night Wood, Caedmon Hollow, and the estate is the place he wrote that famous book. The estate also happens to be surrounded by a thick, lush, and creepy af forest.
The Haydens need a new start. Charles has fucked up in a multitude of ways. I don’t want to give spoilers but I also don’t really want anyone going into this book blind. To be surprised by where a story goes is one thing, to be shocked by some horrible shit is another thing altogether. Let’s just say that the Haydens used to have a daughter and now they don’t anymore and their marriage has suffered greatly because of it. Charles’s infidelity hasn’t helped either. Yeah, their lives have been a bit of a shitshow.
As you can probably guess, moving to England does not help them much at all. Erin is more depressed than ever, always thinking about her daughter, taking pills to no end, rarely leaving the estate unless she’s looking at the forest. Charles is looking into the book that has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember and also looking into the man who wrote it. He sees his daughter everywhere he goes. In the newspaper, when he sees a little girl has gone missing, and in the daughter of a local woman he meets at the historical society.
And then there is the forest. There are things in the forest. Things that may or may not be killing the girls in the village, including the one Charles saw in the newspaper, and these things have possibly been doing it for centuries.
All of this culminates in a final scene in the forest with Charles, Erin, Silva, the woman Charles met at the historical society, and her daughter, Lorna. The story ends perhaps the happiest it can considering the circumstances.
While I did enjoy the darkness of the story, it was very difficult to read at times. I think if there was one less bad event, it would have been a little more bearable to read. Everything on top of each other felt almost excruciating. The chapter we find out exactly what happened to their daughter, Lissa, was…it was hard to breathe while I read it.
I don’t want you to think this isn’t a well-written story because it is, but you have to like tragedy and not be affected too much by it. I soak up emotions like a sponge, so this was quite difficult to read. I am giving In the Night Wood 4 out of 5 stars. I probably would have given it the last star if what happened to their daughter had stayed a secret. I don’t think it would have hurt the story if it remained unknown. The character’s emotions are shown enough to know something awful has happened.
In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey comes out October 9, 2018.
Thank you to Edelweiss and John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the free ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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