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Book Review: Laird Hunt’s "In the House in the Dark of the Woods"

Jordynn Godfrey

Posted on May 9, 2021 20:11

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"Once upon a time there was and there wasn't a woman who went to the woods."

I recently downloaded Libby, an app that allows you to use your local, free library card to access online audio books.

My friend suggested that I use Libby to borrow In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt. I borrowed and finished it, and let me tell you – I cannot sing its praises enough! This is the first book in nearly eight months that held my undivided attention, resulting in me completing it within 24 hours.

In the House in the Dark of the Woods is a psychological horror/thriller novel about a woman who loses her way in the woods. The woman comes across a huntress, a man, a sparrow, a witch, wolves, and many other odd creatures as she confronts her past and present, ultimately changing her future forever.

Hunt’s story reads like a modern horror folktale, telling of revenge, redemption, evil, and betrayal. It’s perfect for anyone who likes mystery, fantasy, and psychological horror.

 

Warning: Massive Spoilers Ahead!

The eerie, mildly disturbing mood--even during scenes in which positive events were taking place--added to the overall unhinged feeling of the novel. The uncertainty of it all is what kept me glued to the story.

However, the use of metaphor and the ambiguous ending are what left an impression on me.

Throughout the novel, there are flashbacks to the protagonist's past. Her memories involve abuse and neglect in the name of Christianity at the hands of her mother and her “man,” her “weak” father who could not protect her, and a close encounter with a “kind” stranger.

The main character not only struggles with the darkness around her, but with the darkness inside her. It seems to me that her life within society represents the external forces that harm her, while the woods represent the darkness within herself.

At the climax of her struggle between her old life and a life in the woods, she chooses the woods.

There is no happy ending for this book. In fact, it is quite an ambiguous ending that leaves much up for debate and personal interpretation – which is what I love most.

Once the woman chooses the woods, it is revealed that she (and other notable characters) will presumably suffer for the rest of their lives. You see, this fascinated me, as I interpreted this as the abuse cycle – how it starts, how it continues, and how it is nearly impossible to escape the effects of it. I also thought it could be read from a feminist lens in which the positions of the characters represent the position of women, as a whole, in society.

Even if you read the spoilers, I guarantee that's just not the same as experiencing the story for yourself in its entirety. I am more than satisfied with this novel, and can’t recommend it enough.

Jordynn Godfrey

Posted on May 9, 2021 20:11

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