Like listening to a ghost story around a campfire: Review of In the Heart of the Dark Wood by Billy Coffey

Billy Coffey is fast becoming one of my favorite authors, and if your fiction reading tends toward gritty and deep, then he will be one of yours also.
dark woodIn the Heart of the Dark Wood is the second of Coffey’s books I’ve read, and they are equal parts disturbing and inspiring. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the Booklook Blogging Program in exchange for my review.) You will not find sugar-coated scenarios and shallow characters from Coffey. And at times, he will make you squirm. Case in point: in this book, Allie, the 11-year-old main character, starts her period early on in the story, and Coffey is detailed (though not graphic) about this motherless girl’s transition to womanhood.

So, the story. Allie’s mom was taken in a tornado that happened in Mattingly, Virginia about 18 months before this story takes place. She is not convinced her mama is dead, just gone, and when the Mary disappears from her front lawn Nativity, Allie and her best friend, Zach, set off into the woods on a search that leads them where they never thought they’d go.

In the Heart of the Dark Wood is a story of growing up, of pressing into the hard times to find that the light still shines. It’s about hope and moving on and overcoming. It’s the kind of story that sticks with you long after you’re done reading it.

Coffey’s writing style is that of a campfire storyteller on whose every word you hang. You’ll look over your shoulder to the dark to see if the monsters are sneaking up on you. You’ll shiver a bit. You’ll let your guard down when the story takes a turn for the better. And you’ll study the storyteller trying to decide if this is, in fact, true or not. Coffey absorbs his readers into the lives and hearts of the residents of Mattingly. And I, for one, don’t want to leave.

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