Book Review: Into the Forest by Jean Hegland

Title: Into the Forest
Author: Jean Hegland
Published: 1996
Genre: Adult Literary Fiction – Post Apocalypse

Summary: In many ways, Nell and Eva have experienced a near-idyllic childhood, growing up miles from the nearest neighbor in the forests of northern California. Their father, an iconoclastic grade school principal, has decided to keep them out of school, and their mother has encouraged each of them to follow her own passions. As a result, Eva is determined to become a ballet dancer, while her younger sister, Nell, hopes to matriculate at Harvard. Despite the fact that their happy world is rocked when their mother dies of cancer, they and their father are determined to carry on. Even as terrorism, a distant war, increasingly unpredictable weather, and an unstable economy, challenge the reliability of social order and infrastructure, their little family continues to hoard its resources and attempts to keep up its spirits as they wait for the lights to come back on, the phone to ring, and the lives they have been anticipating to return to them. But when their father is killed in an accident, and a dangerous stranger arrives at their door, the girls confront the fact that they must find some new way to grow into adulthood.

My Rating: 8igbk4dbt8igbk4dbt8igbk4dbt8igbk4dbt8igbk4dbt

It’s hard not to simply write a gushing incoherent mess of a review on how much I loved this book and how happy I was to finish it and how it finished and what I learned and oh my goodness Hegland’s writing but I shall try to compose myself.

This book is not plot-heavy in the traditional plot-sense of the word, the plot is essentially survival, will they survive and how will this road to survival change them. Our story is two sisters, Nell and Eva – they are alone in their childhood home because their parents have died, how they die is slowly revealed.  Their parents were hippish, free loving types who home schooled but really let their daughters choose their own paths. Eva the oldest is obsessed with ballet, she works day and night to be ready for her recital. Nell is the bookish studious one who has her heart set on Harvard and is obsessed with getting ready for her qualifications. They live in a remote forest of Northern California, the closest town is 30 miles away. Eccentric and happy but this all changes when the world – meaning USA has a collapse. The entire section of how the world ‘slowly’ dies is phenomenal because it’s so incredibly relevant. First there’s wars, then there’s flickering of electricity. Day by day they have less and less electricity until one day it’s gone. Then there’s disease and civilization slowly disappears.

The language in this book, the prose, is poetic but not over the top because the story continues without the words yanking you out of the feeling. Nell has a notebook where she is documenting their time in this new world so cut-off from everyone else. This book is not predictable at all and there’s a darkness that makes you feel that this will turn out the worse for the girls but by the time it ended the ending was incredibly fitting for me, the ending was the destination we were journeying to from the very beginning. There are things that happened in the book which were a bit ‘ick’ but given their utter loneliness and seclusion I can understand in retrospect why it happened. Loneliness is the flowing theme of the book and returning to mother earth and the beauty of womanhood and the never-ending fountain of human life. It is an incredible read.

I recommend it for those who have enjoyed books such as Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mendel only with one story line.

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