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In the House in the Dark of the Woods

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"Once upon a time there was and there wasn't a woman who went to the woods." In this horror story set in colonial New England, a law-abiding Puritan woman goes missing. Or perhaps she has fled or abandoned her family. Or perhaps she's been kidnapped, and set loose to wander in the dense woods of the north. Alone and possibly lost, she meets another woman in the forest. Then "Once upon a time there was and there wasn't a woman who went to the woods." In this horror story set in colonial New England, a law-abiding Puritan woman goes missing. Or perhaps she has fled or abandoned her family. Or perhaps she's been kidnapped, and set loose to wander in the dense woods of the north. Alone and possibly lost, she meets another woman in the forest. Then everything changes. On a journey that will take her through dark woods full of almost-human wolves, through a deep well wet with the screams of men, and on a living ship made of human bones, our heroine may find that the evil she flees has been inside her all along. The eerie, disturbing story of one of our perennial fascinations--witchcraft in colonial America--In the House in the Dark of the Woods is a novel of psychological horror and suspense told in Laird Hunt's characteristically lyrical prose style. It is the story of a bewitching, a betrayal, a master huntress and her quarry. It is a story of anger, of evil, of hatred and of redemption. It is the story of a haunting, a story that makes up the bedrock of American mythology, but told in a vivid way you will never forget.


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"Once upon a time there was and there wasn't a woman who went to the woods." In this horror story set in colonial New England, a law-abiding Puritan woman goes missing. Or perhaps she has fled or abandoned her family. Or perhaps she's been kidnapped, and set loose to wander in the dense woods of the north. Alone and possibly lost, she meets another woman in the forest. Then "Once upon a time there was and there wasn't a woman who went to the woods." In this horror story set in colonial New England, a law-abiding Puritan woman goes missing. Or perhaps she has fled or abandoned her family. Or perhaps she's been kidnapped, and set loose to wander in the dense woods of the north. Alone and possibly lost, she meets another woman in the forest. Then everything changes. On a journey that will take her through dark woods full of almost-human wolves, through a deep well wet with the screams of men, and on a living ship made of human bones, our heroine may find that the evil she flees has been inside her all along. The eerie, disturbing story of one of our perennial fascinations--witchcraft in colonial America--In the House in the Dark of the Woods is a novel of psychological horror and suspense told in Laird Hunt's characteristically lyrical prose style. It is the story of a bewitching, a betrayal, a master huntress and her quarry. It is a story of anger, of evil, of hatred and of redemption. It is the story of a haunting, a story that makes up the bedrock of American mythology, but told in a vivid way you will never forget.

30 review for In the House in the Dark of the Woods

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Will. Leave this unrated as I will not finish after 50%. Have no idea what is going on and find I don't care enough to continue. For a while I was intrigued by the strangeness, but then it just became tiresome.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    Strange read....confusing narrative....difficult to find a focal point or become interested in a character or direction of plot. Almost called it quits a couple of times. Gave it my all though re-reading pages and chapters bc of enticing book summary depicting witchcraft in colonial New England, but a no-go and a long 224 pages for me. Honestly, no clue I was even in colonial America. Thank you NetGalley and Little Brown and Company for the arc in exchange for my honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Maciek

    told my man I was off to pick berries and that he should watch our son for I would be gone some good while. So away I went with a basket. What drove me to read this book was the blurb from Brian Evenson, an author I admire, who described it as "wonderful, luminous and sly", and called it "a stunning contemporary fairy tale". And it's true - from the very first sentence we are transported into world that seems familiar at first, but soon begins to unveil itself in new, strange and disturbing ways. told my man I was off to pick berries and that he should watch our son for I would be gone some good while. So away I went with a basket. What drove me to read this book was the blurb from Brian Evenson, an author I admire, who described it as "wonderful, luminous and sly", and called it "a stunning contemporary fairy tale". And it's true - from the very first sentence we are transported into world that seems familiar at first, but soon begins to unveil itself in new, strange and disturbing ways. Have you seen the 2015 film The Witch? Dubbed as A New England Folktale, it was the first thing that came to my mind while reading this book. The setting of the novel is never described in any great detail, but I could easily see it being set in the New England forests as shown in the film, and could imagine the heroine living a life which was not very different from that of its female protagonist. The novel is very different from the film, but if are interested in colonial America and its folklore, then you will love this book. Many authors have written multiple novels featuring this subject before, but I'd wager that few of them did that with grace of Laird Hunt. His biggest accomplishment is his ability to use wonderful, lyrical language and create absolutely stunning, vivid and unsettling imagery. You do not as much read this book as you see it. From the beginning almost to the very end, every single page is filled with dark foreboding and absolutely oozes with atmosphere. I can't remember the last time I read a book which I enjoyed reading just for its lyricism and its ability to masterfully convey its setting and make me believe in it and feel as if I was almost there. You can hear the crunching leaves the heroine walks on, feel the unending forest closing in around her and feel the unease creeping up your own back. Most negative reviews of the bookfocus on the novel's lack of focus and vagueness, and these complaints are not without merit. The novel is meandering and confusing, and usually I would agree with such criticism, but this time I felt that it actually added to the experience of reading it. The reader is never at ease and nothing is ever clear, just as no path is certain when we are lost in the woods. Most readers who will find it in themselves to actually read and finish this book will find many interesting themes to think about - how it alludes to stories and fairy tales from the past (most notably Hansel and Gretel, although it is not a retelling), how it presents the role and image of women in early colonial society, and most of all how it touches upon the nature of storytelling itself. Is it a powerful force, or something to be feared? I don't want to spoil anything for anyone wanting to read this book, and to anyone wondering about doing so - do it! It is one of my most pleasant discoveries of 2018 and I will definitely be reading other novels by this author.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Janday

    I'm developing a bit of a habit of reading books about witches and primeval woodland magic. In the vein of traditional, heavily symbolic folk tales about the sonorant evil that lives in the deep forest, this story is about the unstoppable transformations that happen to women when they leave their hearths. Here be magic birds, killer swarms, tepid wells, glamor magic, hags, and the blackest magic of all: memory. While there isn't so much a "story" in these pages, there is rather an unquantifiable I'm developing a bit of a habit of reading books about witches and primeval woodland magic. In the vein of traditional, heavily symbolic folk tales about the sonorant evil that lives in the deep forest, this story is about the unstoppable transformations that happen to women when they leave their hearths. Here be magic birds, killer swarms, tepid wells, glamor magic, hags, and the blackest magic of all: memory. While there isn't so much a "story" in these pages, there is rather an unquantifiable, foreboding atmosphere that you could cut with a knife. But I warn you, it's going to bleed. If you loved The Good People or A Secret History of Witches, you'll devour this book like the ravenous crone you are. I read an early digital manuscript that I obtained as an employee of Hachette Book Group.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lark Benobi

    Using traditional fairy tale elements, Hunt tells a story that starts with fairy-tale calm and rapidly descends into madness and horror. The novel strongly recalls the work of the great German Romantics, in a way I never would have guessed a modern author could evoke. One of my favorite reads of all time is Der blonde Eckbert by German Romantic author Ludwig Tieck. Hunt's short novel exploits channels of feeling that are probably instinctive in us humans, such a fear dark places and of unknown e Using traditional fairy tale elements, Hunt tells a story that starts with fairy-tale calm and rapidly descends into madness and horror. The novel strongly recalls the work of the great German Romantics, in a way I never would have guessed a modern author could evoke. One of my favorite reads of all time is Der blonde Eckbert by German Romantic author Ludwig Tieck. Hunt's short novel exploits channels of feeling that are probably instinctive in us humans, such a fear dark places and of unknown enemies--feelings that are plumbed in fairy tales all over the world. But in this novel there is no happy ending. The irrational wins. What we think of as reality is revealed to be an illusion, and what is really-real is a world filled with irrational rules, rules that have nothing to do with human morals or human sympathy, and where terror is lurking just beneath the veil of calm that we fool ourselves into believing, just so we can continue living. The flat calm tone of the narrator makes the outcome all the more terrifying. She continues to believe in the goodwill of all those she meets, and to believe in her own innocence. in the end she is implicated deeply in her own fate, in a way that again evokes the great German Romantics, who also wrote stories in which everyone gets what is coming to them. There is so much going on here. Let the story lead you. It's an eerie and unexpected journey all the way.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alisa H. (worldswithinpages)

    Felt a bit disorganized and rambling which made it hard to follow. The idea behind the story was promising, but the execution was a bit lackluster. Thank you to Little Brown for the free copy and a chance to review!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Sullivan

    Update: I want to clarify that this book is definitely objectively better than 1 Star. But I still hold that my experience of reading it was so disappointing that I’m sticking to this low rating. *** I have no idea what I just read. Obscure fiction works for me sometimes, but this was just too much. I couldn’t wait for it to end and I’m so glad to be done with it that I can’t even be bothered to write a full review. The writing itself is good, but I hated the experience of reading this so much.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hanna

    Oh the beautiful cover, the ever-present feeling of dread, and magic derived from nature. This book was an adventure into the world of the women in the Dark of the woods. How did they get here? Why are they here? Or better yet, what have they done to get here? A story of redemption, or maybe punishment, or maybe even the power of reclamation. Witchcraft, wolves, spooky forests, and boats made of flesh & bone, this book has it all. For a dark tale that is absolutely impossible to summarize an Oh the beautiful cover, the ever-present feeling of dread, and magic derived from nature. This book was an adventure into the world of the women in the Dark of the woods. How did they get here? Why are they here? Or better yet, what have they done to get here? A story of redemption, or maybe punishment, or maybe even the power of reclamation. Witchcraft, wolves, spooky forests, and boats made of flesh & bone, this book has it all. For a dark tale that is absolutely impossible to summarize and leaves a lot for you to interpret, pick up this book!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Caleb Masters

    A wonderfully spooky, dreamlike treasure of a book. Positively dripping with atmosphere, Hunt's novel tells the seemingly simply story of a women getting lost in the woods in colonial New England. But the novel quickly becomes anything but ordinary, filled with fantastical images, beautiful writing, strange twists, and pervasive sense of intangible dread; 'In the House in the Dark of the Woods' is the perfect book to read by the fire on a dark night. Can't wait to revisit this again soon!

  10. 5 out of 5

    BELLETRIST

    We read this one in two sittings. It's quite unlike many things we've read before. It is definitely not for the faint of heart or stomach. It is also somehow remnant of witch tales we grew up with. That's what we really loved about it. It's spooky, but also curious.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jee Hooked On Bookz

    Riveting! Devoured this in 2 days. You’d first meet a woman nicknamed ‘Goody‘ who would then meet Captain Jane, Eliza and Granny Someone, all of whom were witches, although one of them will claim she was not, and that she was in the woods to save lost souls, another fed on children and another seemed not to be who she claimed to be. Then there was also a mysterious character, Red Boy, whom was feared but respected by the dwellers of the woods. It took me awhile to get into Hart’s writing style. Bu Riveting! Devoured this in 2 days. You’d first meet a woman nicknamed ‘Goody‘ who would then meet Captain Jane, Eliza and Granny Someone, all of whom were witches, although one of them will claim she was not, and that she was in the woods to save lost souls, another fed on children and another seemed not to be who she claimed to be. Then there was also a mysterious character, Red Boy, whom was feared but respected by the dwellers of the woods. It took me awhile to get into Hart’s writing style. But once I got the hang of it, I was hooked! The story builds slowly and gradually, but beautifully... Just be prepared though, you don’t want to be caught off guard when you find yourself in the deepest, darkest part of the woods, one that’s chilling and eerie. You’d want to be ready when you are off flying above the clouds in a boat made of human flesh and human bones, with a witch claiming to 'have a mercy to perform'. The story gets darker with every page. You’ll be surrounded by screams, howls, cries so piercing you’ll have a hard time listening your thoughts. Be ready to be spellbound! Full review on my blog: https://hookedonbookzblog.wordpress.c...

  12. 5 out of 5

    KC

    A truly atmospheric tale of a young Puritan woman who finds herself lost in the woods, desperately trying to get home to her son and husband. While stumbling within the dark forest she soon encounters two strange and possibly menacing women and although little happens within the pages of this very short story, the imagery is extremely reflective of Hannah Kent. I absolutely loved the cover of this novel.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bill Hsu

    One of my favorites of 2018 so far. The leisurely fairy-tale narrative keeps slipping. Questions are posed and shrugged off. Like in this delicious exchange: "Once upon a time there was and there wasn't a woman who went to the woods... Now why did she go?" "Why did she go?" "Why did she go and what did she do?" "Went down to the stream and took off her shoe." "And before that?" "Set off from her house in a bonnet blue." "Now tell me, what did she rue?" ... "What did she rue?" I don't come across many nove One of my favorites of 2018 so far. The leisurely fairy-tale narrative keeps slipping. Questions are posed and shrugged off. Like in this delicious exchange: "Once upon a time there was and there wasn't a woman who went to the woods... Now why did she go?" "Why did she go?" "Why did she go and what did she do?" "Went down to the stream and took off her shoe." "And before that?" "Set off from her house in a bonnet blue." "Now tell me, what did she rue?" ... "What did she rue?" I don't come across many novels that stubbornly resist explanations and resolutions, yet seem to hold my interest effortlessly. The marvelously odd and unstable ending is very satisfying. (Needless to say, if you refuse to dot your i's, you end up with a lot of one- and two-star goodreads ratings.)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This was a strange, twisted little tale that had a deliciously dark ending. The story was lyrical and strange, very vague until the very end when suddenly you realize that nothing was quite as it seemed and Goody was nowhere near as good or innocent as you think and then come to see how it was all there for you since the very beginning. Yes, very good. Albeit strangely executed but entertaining and well worth the read to the finish.

  15. 4 out of 5

    John

    Inspired take on the traditional witches in the woods story. There is a lot going on in this fairly shot novel about a Goodwife (goody) who finds herself on the other side of reality. The first half of the novel is full of unexplained happenings and frustrating wandering, but Hunt manages to wrap things up into a tight little metaphor for Hell. In many ways, I agree with Hunt's take - circular time and grotesque games are the stuff of nightmares and hellscapes more so than any snide Dante-ish co Inspired take on the traditional witches in the woods story. There is a lot going on in this fairly shot novel about a Goodwife (goody) who finds herself on the other side of reality. The first half of the novel is full of unexplained happenings and frustrating wandering, but Hunt manages to wrap things up into a tight little metaphor for Hell. In many ways, I agree with Hunt's take - circular time and grotesque games are the stuff of nightmares and hellscapes more so than any snide Dante-ish contrapasso. And even beyond the magic and fantastic, there is a stark brutality that seeps into the novel as Hunt presents life for the religious ardent in a New America. A life that most stories of this type gloss over - for instance the inexperience and luxury of a full body bath... Anyway. Really well done.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Neville Longbottom

    This confused me. A lot. I thought it was beautifully written and had such a cool, creepy atmospheric setting… but I don’t know if I fully understand what happened in the story. Or really what the central message was. I guess maybe give it a try if you want some beautiful writing, women going missing in creepy forests, dark magic, and a colonial New England setting. I definitely loved the journey of reading this… but I’m still too confused by this book to give it a super higher rating.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Nelson

    DNF. I really wanted to love this book but found it boring and confusing. About 50% of the way through I gave up.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Audra (ouija.doodle.reads)

    Reading a Laird Hunt novel is always an immersive experience. His writing is something that latches on and doesn't let go easily, so if you're sitting down with one of his books, you might just consider your afternoon and evening booked. Though I think there is definitely a clear narrative to this story, I feel that this book is more about the journey, reading through the main character's experiences and fully coating yourself with the strange and unsettling rhythm and mystery of the words. There Reading a Laird Hunt novel is always an immersive experience. His writing is something that latches on and doesn't let go easily, so if you're sitting down with one of his books, you might just consider your afternoon and evening booked. Though I think there is definitely a clear narrative to this story, I feel that this book is more about the journey, reading through the main character's experiences and fully coating yourself with the strange and unsettling rhythm and mystery of the words. There are elements of fairy tale and magical realism in this fiercely lyrical fever dream of a tale; it is the historical reality of strait-laced Puritan New England coming up against the dark and tangled lore of witches and the woods. And it is a darkly empowering delicious journey. Also, I can't write a review of this one without commenting on the amazing cover art—one of my favorites of the year—and the interior design too. A book can be a piece of art on multiple levels, and this one is definitely a masterpiece. My thanks to Little Brown for sending me a finished copy to read and review.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Molly Riportella

    A mother’s errand turns dark and mystical in Hunt’s newest take on witches in Colonial New England. A bright-eyed Goody walks into the woods to gather berries for her husband and young son when the air turns dark. Soon our nameless protagonist is lost, and encounters a magnetic Captain Jane, a bizarre hermit named Eliza, and an ephemeral girl in a yellow dress, each one welcoming and yet exuding a cautious eagerness. Circumstances continually keep the Goody from making her way home. As the tale A mother’s errand turns dark and mystical in Hunt’s newest take on witches in Colonial New England. A bright-eyed Goody walks into the woods to gather berries for her husband and young son when the air turns dark. Soon our nameless protagonist is lost, and encounters a magnetic Captain Jane, a bizarre hermit named Eliza, and an ephemeral girl in a yellow dress, each one welcoming and yet exuding a cautious eagerness. Circumstances continually keep the Goody from making her way home. As the tale unravels, snippets of the Goody’s past come into focus and the reader begins to understand that Goody has much more in common with the dark, ominous forest than it first appeared. With an unambiguous ending, IN THE HOUSE IN THE DARK OF THE WOODS is a quick and thoroughly enjoyable horror novel. Hunt’s style will not please readers who strongly prefer prosaic writing, but the story is so engrossing that one can easily overcome any prejudices regarding narrative style. A perfect treat (or is it a trick?) for Halloween. Highly recommended for horror fans and admirers of lyrical narrative. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    I hated this book. Incomprehensible gibberish.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is a horror story that begins with a walk in the woods, set during colonial American times. It is a dark story populated with women with untoward motivations toward our main character, who is referred to as Goody. The plot is interesting, but suffers from the convoluted sentence structure that is apparently Hunt's signature style. If you can muscle through the prose, there is an atmospheric, creepy story to be had - but for being such a short story, this book reads like a much heftier tome. T This is a horror story that begins with a walk in the woods, set during colonial American times. It is a dark story populated with women with untoward motivations toward our main character, who is referred to as Goody. The plot is interesting, but suffers from the convoluted sentence structure that is apparently Hunt's signature style. If you can muscle through the prose, there is an atmospheric, creepy story to be had - but for being such a short story, this book reads like a much heftier tome. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an e-arc of In the House in the Dark of the Woods, this in now way affects my review.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jessica (jessreadsalatte)

    *I was sent an Advance Readers Copy by Hatchette Book Group in exchange for an honest review* 4 Stars I actually quite enjoyed this one. I’m seeing a lot of reviews saying the writing wasn’t really their type, but for me, I enjoyed the writing a lot. It felt poet almost, like it was a dream-like fairytale.. or nightmare per se. It was a lot shorter than I was hoping for and at first, I was quite disappointed about that. But after reading it in full, I do think it’s a nice size for the content provi *I was sent an Advance Readers Copy by Hatchette Book Group in exchange for an honest review* 4 Stars I actually quite enjoyed this one. I’m seeing a lot of reviews saying the writing wasn’t really their type, but for me, I enjoyed the writing a lot. It felt poet almost, like it was a dream-like fairytale.. or nightmare per se. It was a lot shorter than I was hoping for and at first, I was quite disappointed about that. But after reading it in full, I do think it’s a nice size for the content provided. Overall, I really enjoyed it. It was creepy, poetic, and just an overall great read just in time for Halloween

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chaitra

    It was slight, and as such it was not a bad reading experience. It took me a while to cotton on to where it was going. But even when I did, I didn't fully get the point. It's eerie and atmospheric, but ultimately too vague to be satisfying.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    ✮ Read this review and more like it on The Last Page ✮ Overwhelmingly atmospheric, In the House in the Dark of the Woods is a modern masterpiece that swept me up and stole my heart. The story is told with luscious prose and has a fairy tale like feel, but instead of centering on the hero’s journey, the story feels like the origins of a great hero. The story follows Goody, a good wife that finds herself lost in the wood after picking berries. The narrative feels like a fever dream, a fantasy tinged ✮ Read this review and more like it on The Last Page ✮ Overwhelmingly atmospheric, In the House in the Dark of the Woods is a modern masterpiece that swept me up and stole my heart. The story is told with luscious prose and has a fairy tale like feel, but instead of centering on the hero’s journey, the story feels like the origins of a great hero. The story follows Goody, a good wife that finds herself lost in the wood after picking berries. The narrative feels like a fever dream, a fantasy tinged with poison that steadily becomes more pervasive as Goody finds herself tangled up in the mystery and the magic of the woods. Even when everything seems dandy there is this urgent sense of danger with each person that Goody meets. “The honey was delicious, heavy gold with marks of comb and only here or there a leg or wing or who knows what else had been pulled into the trickling swamp.” This book was also a masterful historical piece about the New England Goodwives of Colonial America. The Puritan religion was extremely restrictive and difficult for women of the time period. The fear of witchcraft was pervasive and there are hints of witchcraft and madness throughout this novel, for not all wives are good. Not all witches fly on brooms and stir cauldrons, but the irresistible temptation of magic can be found in the darkest reaches of the human heart. I absolutely loved this book and it was definitely my favorite read of 2018.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    2.5 stars. This book is written in surreal, dream-like, lyrical prose. If you like that, and if you like fairy tales, you will probably love this book. But for me, that kind of narrative is like seeing a story unfold behind frosted glass. It's just not my thing, and I prefer a more concrete, grounded style. So this book was only okay for me, but still, while I usually DNF most books with this writing style, this one kept me reading, so I'm rounding up. I did enjoy the eerie feeling I got as I re 2.5 stars. This book is written in surreal, dream-like, lyrical prose. If you like that, and if you like fairy tales, you will probably love this book. But for me, that kind of narrative is like seeing a story unfold behind frosted glass. It's just not my thing, and I prefer a more concrete, grounded style. So this book was only okay for me, but still, while I usually DNF most books with this writing style, this one kept me reading, so I'm rounding up. I did enjoy the eerie feeling I got as I read, though it started to lose me around the time our protagonist started sailing around the sky in a boat. This is the kind of book where I get to the end and feel like Brigitta in The Sound of Music saying, "But it doesn't mean anything!" That's just me though, and I think a lot of people will find it much more meaningful! Just not my jam, but it gets points for being one of the few books written in this style to keep me engaged.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Raven Ross

    This darkly entrancing novel was perfect for the Halloween season! The women are powerful and violent, but not lacking complexity in the least. The scenes are sooo creepy and enjoyable as fuuuuck. Go read it, because this literary journey leaves no regrets (well, for the readers at least).

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    Someone please explain to me what I just read. I’m confused. I was able to follow the first 50+ pages then got lost in the mumble jumble. Time to move on.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Ward

    Review to come.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Corey

    A marvelous (as in full of marvels) dark fairy tale, a new grim Grimm.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Adrienne

    Creepy, dark, twisty, enchanting, surreal, dreamlike(maybe more of a nightmare that you never want to leave),haunting, and a wild rush the whole way through. The only book to ever give me the creeps. (But in a good way.) I HIGHLY recommend! ETA: unnerving (the entire time!) brilliantly done, Laird!

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