In the Heart of the Dark Wood, by Billy Coffey

book coverPublisher’s Summary:

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.

My Take:

Sometimes, it’s all too easy to give up on a book. Time is precious; why waste it on something that isn’t holding your interest? I’ve done it, but I make a point of completely reading any book that I’m going to review. It’s just as well, because I was caught off guard by an event that could only have happened after I finished reading.

I’ve read When Mockingbirds Sing and The Devil Walks in Mattingly and I admit to not loving either. Coffey’s writing is powerful and descriptive, but I’d not been satisfied with the ending of either book. I had questions without answers. When I heard that In the Heart of the Dark Wood would take place after the events of When Mockingbirds Sing, I was hopeful that my questions would be answered. A note at the beginning dashed those hopes. “Billy Coffey’s novels all take place in Mattingly, Virginia, and can be read in any order.” If, like me, you wanted to know more about Leah and her paintings or learn what exactly happened to Lucy you’re going to be disappointed. Neither character is mentioned.

Perhaps I went into this book already dissatisfied with what I’d read. Two children get lost in the woods, children that were in the previous books. It’s immediately obvious that this is a coming of age story. Allie is being raised by a drunken single father and, evidently, no one realized that she might need the guidance of a woman as she grew up. An obvious part of her “becoming a woman,” is regularly mentioned, and I confess to being uncomfortable knowing that a man was writing about this. I loved Allie in the first book, but here she irritated me with her determination to find her mother. Did she believe her mother was alive? I’m still not sure. I didn’t feel I was emotionally connected to either child. I was more concerned about the fate of SamWise the Beagle. I wanted to skip to the end, because I felt the “babes in the woods” narrative was dragging.

So imagine my surprise when, as I got to the final page, the tears began rolling down my cheeks. This book had more of an impact on me than I’d expected. Was it the way it ended? Was it because of SamWise? I can’t tell you why the tears came, but something about In the Heart of the Dark Wood touched me deep within. That’s the power of the written word.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson and the BookLookBloggers program for my complimentary copy of In the Heart of the Dark Wood, in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read In the Heart of the Dark Wood? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 28 October 2014

Page Count: 384

Read more on:   Billy Coffey’s Website   Thomas Nelson’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million

2 thoughts on “In the Heart of the Dark Wood, by Billy Coffey

  1. Just finished the book and I felt quite similar. I haven’t read other books by the author, but I loved the cover. Felt the story fell flat and really dragged. Like you, I felt most for the dog!

  2. Pingback: There Will Be Stars, by Billy Coffey | Proverbial Reads

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