Book Review: And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich
ashley | When I read The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich, I was pretty much blown away. I thought it was so creative and inventive, I was an instant fan. I have had And the Trees Crept In haunting me from my to-read pile for a while and only now just found time to pick it up.
When I first came upon this, the story screamed Hansel and Gretel to me; a house, surrounded by woods, and children coming to find it. It started off feeling like a wicked fairy tale too. Kurtagich has such a way with words and this immediately set that dark and eerie scene.
I had mixed feelings about this book, though. It is a slow burn; building slowly from the start towards the end, with nothing too big happening too soon. It’s the way good old horror books were made, where the horror seeps in and under your skin when you aren’t yet fully prepared for it, and then when it finally does show itself and grips you, you’re already overtaken by it and there is nowhere to go.
I liked that build, but I’m not sure I liked the story. I couldn’t get away from the fairy tale feeling, like this was more of a dark children’s story than anything else. Actually, it reminded me a bit of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. While there is nothing wrong with that, I was hoping to feel this in my depths and it just didn’t seem to reach as far down as I thought this could have gone.
That said, the story did have its moments and did keep me guessing; I had no idea what was happening at first, which I found frustrating, but it fell into a nice little rhythm and the more I read, the more this rhythm became a little bit stronger and a little bit louder. Creeping, like so many elements in the book; the trees slowly moving in, making their safe home smaller and smaller, the growing panic and insanity in the girls, their looming hunger and crazy aunt. I ultimately really enjoyed what all of this represented, though I did kind of figure it out mid-book, so by that point, some of the build and anticipation became dragging and I just wanted the book to hurry up and meet me where I already was.
Eventually all the questions about the past and present finally fit together in a mess of old journal entries and pieces of scrap paper that heads up the chapters. I usually really like this element in stories, but it didn’t fully fit with this for me and made it seem a bit more like too much was happening at once.
I still really applaud Kurtagich for her unique approach to her stories and I like how she thinks and works with her ideas. This one just didn’t fully do it for me. I appreciate the concept and what it all amounted to in the end, but the journey getting there wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for.
september 6, 216