IN THE HOUSE IN THE DARK OF THE WOODS by Laird Hunt

IN THE HOUSE IN THE DARK OF THE WOODS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Odd things befall a woman among witchlike beings in a forest in Colonial America.

The woman narrating goes walking in the woods one day to pick berries for her husband and boy and wanders “farther away from our home than ever I had before.” (Clues to the undefined time and place include soldiers in red, or Redcoats, and a coastal town where a woman sits in stocks typical of Puritan New England.) After a time, the narrator is in distress, lost in the forest and injured. She will encounter three women who seem to help as they hinder her efforts to return home while they reveal special powers and pastimes. She will dive for a treasure in a filthy well and see the world change when viewed through a hole in a piece of bark. Memories will arise that might explain her own specialness. Things evolve from the strange but plausible to the strange and magical—including a flying boat “made of human skin and of human bones”—somewhat in the manner of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass. There’s an explicit reference to “Hansel and Gretel,” one of the grimmer among the Grimm brothers’ tales and an apt allusion for Hunt (The Evening Road, 2017, etc.). Borne along by his lyrical writing, the narrative moves from foreboding to fear to the psyche’s awful freight and finally to horror. It’s a journey in mood and message from Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne to the Poe of “The Cask of Amontillado,” and the reader yields to the final frisson in the realization of how the why precedes and suits the terrible what. An entire episode—albeit quite creepy—doesn’t really fit thematically, and the ending is unfortunately both puzzling and annoying.

A bit flawed but an unusual and entertaining tale from an uncommonly resourceful writer.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-316-41105-9
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2018




Kirkus Interview
Laird Hunt
February 7, 2017

In Laird Hunt’s new novel The Evening Road, Ottie Lee Henshaw is a startling, challenging beauty in small-town Indiana. Quick of mind, she navigates a stifling marriage, a lecherous boss, and on one day in the summer of 1930 an odyssey across the countryside to witness a dark and fearful celebration. Meet Calla Destry, a determined young woman desperate to escape the violence of her town and to find the lover who has promised her a new life. On this day, the countryside of Jim Crow-era Indiana is no place for either. It is a world populated by frenzied demagogues and crazed revelers, by marauding vigilantes and grim fish suppers, by possessed blood hounds and, finally, by the Ku Klux Klan itself. The Evening Road is the story of two remarkable women on the move through an America riven by fear and hatred, and eager to flee the secrets they have left behind. “Hunt brings to mind Flannery O’Connor’s grotesques and Barry Hannah’s bracingly inventive prose and cranks. He is strange, challenging, and a joy to read,” our reviewer writes in a starred review. View video >

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