Author: Laird Hunt
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
First Published: October 16, 2018
Genres: Historical Fantasy, Horror
Once upon a time there was and there wasn't a woman who went to the woods.
In this disorienting horror story, a young woman sets off to pick berries in the depths of the forest, but can't find her way home again. Or perhaps she has fled or abandoned her family. Or perhaps she's been kidnapped, and set loose to wander in the dense woods of the north. Alone and possibly lost, she meets another woman who offers her help. Then everything changes.
On a journey that will take her through dark woods full of almost-human wolves, through a deep well wet with the screams of men, and on a living ship made of human bones, our heroine may find that the evil she flees has been inside her all along.
Overwhelmingly atmospheric, In the House in the Dark of the Woods is a modern masterpiece that swept me up and stole my heart. The story is told with luscious prose and has a fairytale-like feel, but instead of centering on the hero’s journey, the story feels like the origins of a great hero.
The story follows Goody, a good wife that finds herself lost in the woods after picking berries. The narrative feels like a fever dream, a fantasy-tinged with poison that steadily becomes more alarming as Goody finds herself tangled up in the mystery and the magic of the woods. Even when everything seems dandy there is this urgent sense of danger with each person that Goody meets.
“The honey was delicious, heavy gold with marks of comb and only here or there a leg or wing or who knows what else had been pulled into the trickling swamp.”
This book was also a masterful historical piece about the New England Goodwives of Colonial America. The Puritan religion was extremely restrictive and difficult for women of the time period. The fear of witchcraft was pervasive and there are hints of witchcraft and madness throughout this novel. Not all wives are good, and not all witches fly on brooms and stir cauldrons, but the irresistible temptation of magic can be found in the darkest reaches of the human heart.