Book Review: In A Dark, Dark Wood
ashley | Finally! I’ve wanted to read In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware ever since I saw the book cover on someone else’s blog ages ago (this book cover, not the one posted above which was the cover of my copy). The mystery-suspense-thriller genre is quickly becoming my favourite genres, but because I read so many, it’s always difficult to find a smart book that can stump me or keep me enthralled from start to finish, so I’m constantly consuming anything I can in a search for new surprises and thrills.
Losing old friends is something we all have experienced. I’m sure everyone has someone in their back pocket that they haven’t talked to in years, maybe even had a bad falling out with, someone who every now and then pops into their head out of the blue and brings up a bunch of complicated memories of the past. I could intimately relate to the beginning of this book, receiving an email invitation that opens up Pandora’s Box to the past. It’s an idea I’ve daydreamed about a lot, so I was intrigued with the way things had started.
I have very mixed feelings about this book, however. There were some things I really liked and other things that really, really bothered me. For instance, I really liked the character growth – or regression, more specifically. All of these people came into adulthood apart from each other so thrusting them into a cabin with people of their past naturally brought out their former selves. Old habits you worked hard to get past start to show themselves again under old influences. This was really interesting to me and I feel that same way when I go back to the town I grew up in, that I can’t be seen as anything other than the person I was.
I also really liked how this was structured… starting with the reunion hen, flashing forward to Nora waking up in the hospital after some traumatic incident, then going back to the hen, and so forth. It blended the past and the present, the before and after quite well, littering clues to lead us to come up with theories for what could have happened in this cabin in the woods.
But that’s where things start to bother me. Sometimes it felt like maybe Ware was a bit too generous with her clues, it wasn’t too hard to start piecing things together and I had discovered Nora’s “big secret” and the “big twist” of who was behind everything well before the book caught up to me, which made a lot of the unraveling text that took us through possible situations and eliminated suspects kind of redundant and I was a bit too impatient with it.
There was another thing I couldn’t totally grasp, though it was more of a minor detail than anything else. [I will remain vague, but this is a spoiler of a rather big plot point] There was a man from Nora’s past, who she could never get over, that pops back into her present unexpectedly. She does the natural comparisons between “The Guy I Knew” and the guy that she’s meeting again now. What bothered me is that she knew him when they were 16. They’re now in their mid-late 20s. Those are such vital years for growing and changing, of course it’s not the same guy you remember. He was 16! I would be hard pressed to find anyone who was the same as they were at 16 and liked the same foods and clothes and the like. It really, really bugged me that she was playing into the same thing she felt everyone else was doing to her, expecting him to be the same person she once knew.
I also had a hard time accepting that she would still be this broken up after a five month relationship that happened 10 years ago. Everything alluded to there being something horrible that happened to make Nora react this way, a “big secret” that she hadn’t told anyone. This was dangled over our head through the entire book, so I really wanted it to be something mind blowing. But it wasn’t. It was significant, sure, and it definitely justified how Nora was feeling and acting 10 years after the fact, but it was also very easy to conclude and anyone who is remotely able to piece things together or even somewhat well read (or has watched enough after school specials) could easily figure out why they broke up.
I actually did enjoy this read; I liked the characters and the manipulative actions of the characters and all the pieces were there for a really strong thriller, but they just seemed like they were a little out of order, like the book was always trying to catch up to the reader. If you don’t look too hard at the plot points or try too hard to figure things out on your own and just read through, it’s definitely a good ride. I can’t do that, though. Like I said, I’m always looking for the challenge, something to surprise me and blindside me, and while this entire book took place in a forest, I wasn’t the least bit stumped.
july 30, 2015