Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Brigit and Ian have a small Youtube channel where they hunt ghosts and solve paranormal problems. It’s all fake, of course, but it brings in the views and gives them enough money to keep on keeping on. The pair met in college and just … clicked. There’s a lot unsaid between them, a lot of looks, quiet moments, and the weight of their pasts — Ian and his abusive father; Brigit and her dead sister. Life might have continued with the two of them going from mark to mark, visiting people who just wanted to go viral, to be noticed, to be listened to … until Alicia Nguyen calls, begging for their help and offering a great deal of money if Brigit will just come home.

Ellis Creek is a small town where everyone knows everyone else; they all go to the same school, the same churches, and the same grocery stores. They know who’s cheating on their husband, who drinks too much, and who got caught (and who didn’t). It’s the town where Brigit grew up. It’s where her sister, Emma, died. It’s a town full of ghosts and memories and now, two lost children who dreamed of Emma before vanishing into the woods. Brigit can’t say no. Whether it’s the money, the need for closure, guilt or grief, or something else, Brigit can’t say no. So, with Ian and his camera at her side, Brigit goes home.

Maybe she shouldn’t have.

The trees are whispering, laughing, watching. Is there something in the woods, waiting for Brigit? Or is it her own mind, lost in memories of the past and missing a sister who died too soon?

The title of this book is a bit on the nose, considering the themes within the story and the characters drawn into the tangled nest of madness, grief, and isolation. There’s Sam, the transgender man who refuses to be a martyr, who only wants to live his life in a small, insular town. We have the bartender, Max, who doesn’t want to get involved in someone else’s life. And Alicia, who before she was the only woman (and an Asian woman at that) on her small police force had a girlfriend who suffered from self harm and fits of mania and despair, a girlfriend she broke up with days before her death, and Alicia carries the guilt of what she didn’t do and didn’t say. And there is Lacey, the waitress who is the friend of one of the missing teenagers, who has her own secrets.

And then there’s Brigit, who is a chaotic mess of manipulation, isolation, defensiveness, and fear and who doesn’t want to know what she doesn’t know, who doesn’t want to poke at the dark spaces in her memory for fear of what she might find. It’s not just the missing children, or the looks from people she grew up with and left behind. It’s the dreams that haunt her at night of white birches in the moonlight, and phone calls that leave no sign of ever having happened except in her mind. It’s laughter on the wind that sounds like her sister, and a forest where time and space seem like mere suggestions rather than something that can be measured and counted.

This is a book very heavy on mood and vibe, and will make for a perfect autumn read. However, while the tone and atmosphere are wonderfully effective and the Dell, the mysterious forest, is a strong and creepy character on its own, there is some fuzziness in the human characters. Brigit’s voice, in her POV chapters, is strong and lyrical as she wonders at her own sanity. However, when the chapter moves to Ian’s point of view, the voice remains almost the same, but instead of wondering at Brigit’s sanity, it’s Ian’s wistful and heartfelt attention to Brigit. The line of her neck, the shape of her smile, how lost and lonely she looks. The voices sound so very similar, and both have the same fixed attention on Brigit.

The side characters are sketches, albeit sketches with nice thick lines, but they’re mostly interchangeable. I appreciate that every scene in this book is to a purpose, every chapter ties into the next, and every plot point follows from the one before with the story feeling honest and truthful from start to finish. The book is written almost as though it’s a movie, with many shots set up and framed in a very visual manner. As someone who likes horror movies, this book worked for me on so many levels and the ending, while perhaps not as dramatic as I would have personally liked, fits the quiet and overall melancholy feel of the book.

This isn’t really a love story, though. I think it’s clear that Ian loves Brigit and she, in turn, loves him. It doesn’t feel like a romance as much as a deep bond, like two people who each found their other half. It could be read as a romance if you’re so inclined, though. The writing is good, the pace is smooth and focused, and I am left wanting more — and looking forward to more from the author. I highly recommend this story if you’re into creepy woods and gothic horror.