In the Heart of the Dark Wood Cover

Rating: 4 stars

A motherless girl hungry for hope . . . and the dream that could be leading her astray.

Almost two years have passed since twelve year-old Allie Granderson’s beloved mother Mary disappeared into the wild tornado winds. Her body has never been found. God may have spilled out his vengeance on all of Mattingly that day–but it was Allie’s momma who got swept away.

Allie clings to memories of her mother, just as she clings to the broken compass she left behind, the makeshift Nativity scene assembled in Allie’s front yard, and to her best friend, Zach. But even with Zach at her side, the compass tied to her wrist, and the Nativity characters just a glimpse out the window, Allie cannot help but feel lost in all the growing up that must get done.

When the Holy Mother disappears from the yard one morning, Allie’s bewilderment is checked only by the sudden movement of her mother’s compass. Yet the compass isn’t pointing north but east . . . into the inky forest on the outskirts of Mattingly.

Following the needle, Allie and Zach leave the city pavement behind and push into the line of trees edging on the Virginia hill country. For Allie, the journey is more than a ghost hunt: she is rejoining the mother she lost–and finding herself with each step deeper into the heart of the darkest woods she’s ever seen.

Brimming with lyrical prose and unexpected discoveries, “In the Heart of the Dark Wood” illustrates the steep transition we all must undergo–the moment we shed our child-like selves and step into the strange territory of adulthood.

This book moved me in ways I wasn’t expecting. When I first saw the premise of the book, I originally thought it was going to be an okay read with a very happy ending. However, this book took several turns I didn’t see coming. They were turns that enthralled me, making me want to continue reading. That is one of the many reasons why I enjoyed reading In the Heart of the Dark Wood.

I also enjoyed reading this book because I felt a strong connection with Allie. From the very beginning, I sympathized with Allie’s character because I knew exactly how she felt. While I myself haven’t lost my mother, I know what it’s like being without one parent, feeling as if a part of you is gone. In a way, losing anyone you care about is like that, and this book heavily portrayed that in a way that moved me emotionally. While Allie does struggle to let go of her past and to continue moving forward, when she does let go, it’s in a very adult way, which allows the reader to see her develop as a character.

I also enjoyed reading In the Heart of the Dark Wood because I enjoyed hearing about their journey and how both Allie and Zach were able to survive as the townspeople kept looking for them. I enjoyed hearing about their adventure because the author writes in plenty of detail, pulling the reader’s attention with every passing minute. The context of the text is very lyrical and beautifully written and really pulled at my emotions. When I was near the end of the book, I was crying because I was so emotionally invested in what I was reading. Allie is such a sympathetic character that it was hard not to feel bad for her and everything she has gone through.

However, one aspect of In the Heart of the Dark Wood that bothered me was how the time Allie and Zach spent in the woods dragged on. While reading about their time in the woods was enthralling, there were aspects of it that seemed to take forever to become interesting. One example is the creature in the woods that has been following them. They have encounters with this creature two or three times before they are finally able to see what creature is pursuing them. This bothers me because the reader doesn’t figure out what creature Allie and Zach encounter until the very end of the book. I was also bothered by how Allie finds her mother in the woods. While it’s good to know Allie finally has closure with what happened to her mother, I was hoping that things would go differently for her.

In the Heart of the Dark Wood was a pleasure to read. It kept me guessing at every turn of the page and really enthralled me emotionally.