From the Woods by Charlotte Greene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Okay – so I’m NEVER going camping.
This was a bit of a nail-biter – a hiking adventure in the woods with some very creepy goings-on to spur the action on.
Fiona and three friends luck into a once in a lifetime opportunity for a two week camping/hiking adventure in a virtually untouched and protected forest in Colorado. Things start off well when they are met by Roz, the terribly hunky butch hiking guide, and her assistant guides who will accompany them to the first camp site and then leave the four women and their guide to make their way to the pick up point on the far side of the woods. Honestly, when I read that the campers were expected to take everything out of the forest with them – including toilet paper – I was suitably horrified. That was before they found strange carvings in the woods and hearing sounds that gave the impression that they weren’t quite as alone as they expected. This book tapped into some of the most primal fears – and there were shades of Blair Witch with weird stuff happening in the dark which exacerbated the already strained relationships between the women.
Greene is an accomplished writer and she’s able to ratchet up the suspense extremely well – whether it’s a slow mounting sense of danger as the heroines find more and more things “off” or the race through the forest with god knows who or what chasing them down. This is a book that will grab you and drag you along. It was hard to put it down (at 1am) but I didn’t want to continue reading when I was tired and miss stuff.
There’s a paranormal feel to this, but not too strong so that someone who isn’t a paranormal fan would probably enjoy it as much as a paranormal fan would. There’s some plausible explanations, but a lot left unsaid/unexplained so that anyone reading it as a paranormal book would find it suitably creepy.
The romance is a bit light – but as the Roz and Fiona are racing through the woods, dodging bear traps and bullets and finding really weird etchings on the trees, they don’t have a lot of time for build up. Before things get really hinky, they have some interactions which lays a feasible foundation for their connection. On the other hand – the stress and and the adrenaline does lend to the believability that they wouldn’t waste a lot of time flirting.
I was on and off with the characters – at times, Fiona’s self-doubt and self-deprecation hampered my ability to fully connect and root for her, and the stalwart Roz was stoic to a fault. That being said, Greene crafted both characters well so that while Fiona and Roz had their faults their determination to keep going was admirable (I would have been curled up in a tent, refusing to open my eyes let alone move farther into the woods … let me re-iterate, I am NEVER going camping). Jill – I’m not sure about. She was a bully, argumentative, and recklessly ignorant – which is what you need to plausibly get a bunch of women make some of the bad decisions that they did while in the woods.
Recommended – especially if you’re sitting out by a campfire and hear something rustling just beyond the light cast by the flames.