INTO THE FOREST by Jean Alma Hegland

INTO THE FOREST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Brisk, feminist, contemplative first novel about the end of contemporary civilization and the survival of two sisters. Hegland is vague about civilization's downfall. She places a wife, a husband, and their two daughters, Eva and Nell, on 50 acres of second-growth redwood forest in northern California--the idea seeming to be that since the location is remote to begin with, news of the outside world would filter in slowly. There's a war somewhere, and ever more virulent strains of viruses rage through the population; then, suddenly, there's no more food available in stores, no more gasoline, no more television. The mother dies; the father pushes his dreamy daughters to learn such humble skills as gardening and canning. In the best scene, the father's chain saw kicks back and cuts him, and his daughters are helpless, unable to do more than watch as he bleeds to death. They bury him where he lies. Slowly, because the alternative is starvation, Nell learns the wisdom of the forest: killing a wild sow with a rifle she barely knows how to fire, using herbs for medicines and tea, gathering acorns to pound into flour. A boy comes to take Nell away, but she cannot leave Eva; though sisters by birth, Hegland turns the girls into lovers--and ideologically pure lovers, at that. Mystically, they both produce milk to nurse Eva's son, the product of a rape by a passing thug. Fearful of more such violence, the sisters burn down their father's house and take up housekeeping in a mammoth redwood stump. They've learned nature's lessons and, purified, are prepared for humankind's great destiny: to live in the woods like animals. A little apocalypse goes a long way. Beautifully written, however, and Hegland's knowledge of organic gardening, fruit drying, etc., is impeccably authentic.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0553379615
Page count: 225pp
Publisher: Calyx