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In the House in the Dark of the Woods

Review

In the House in the Dark of the Woods

IN THE HOUSE IN THE DARK OF THE WOODS is presented as something special, and fittingly so. Its dimensions in length, width and depth are smaller than the usual hardcover, so it shoulders its way to the front (or top) of your attention. The illustrations that serve as a foreword to each chapter and repeat themselves in somewhat irregular order are something less than woodcut and more than pencil sketches. Their vagueness creates a sense of uneasiness even before one starts reading. This is good in a way, as it warms you up for the story, which at first is not so much frightening as it is unsettling before it takes the reader into some very dark and nasty places. The book may not run long --- it’s a bit over 200 pages --- but veteran and critically acclaimed author Laird Hunt goes deep.

"This is the stuff of nightmares, or perhaps a reality that bubbles and steams just under the veneer of ordinary perception."

The narrative voice over the course of the novel puts one in the mind of folklore, as does the apparent setting, which seems to be a Puritan encampment in the general area of New England during America’s colonial period. For the most part, the voice of the tale belongs to a woman we come to know as “Goody,” who goes on a day walk to pick berries for her son and husband. Goody stays overlong into the night and gets lost when she attempts to return home. She is found by an enigmatic lady named Captain Jane, who surrenders her to Eliza. Goody finds Eliza to be a gracious hostess, but her aggressive friendliness is a bit off-putting.

There are many sides to Eliza, some of which reveal themselves when Goody speaks of returning to her family. She ultimately does so with some assistance from Captain Jane after a diversion occasioned by another inhabitant in the woods, but the path back to her former life isn’t quite as straight and true as she might expect. The same can be said for what she has experienced during her time spent with Eliza, who has a few surprises of her own. The major revelations, however, lie with Goody. Fissures and steaming cracks in reality abound by the time the narrative is concluded, and anyone reading this fine novel will never hear the phrase “change about” again without thinking of Goody, Eliza and Captain Jane.

Hunt is a marvel. Those who read IN THE HOUSE IN THE DARK OF THE WOODS will want to search out his previous work for his ability to present different perspectives from exotic settings of time and place. This is the stuff of nightmares, or perhaps a reality that bubbles and steams just under the veneer of ordinary perception. You won’t drive past woods again --- let alone walk through them --- without thinking of this book.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 19, 2018

In the House in the Dark of the Woods
by Laird Hunt

  • Publication Date: October 16, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Horror
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • ISBN-10: 0316411051
  • ISBN-13: 9780316411059