Tuesday, July 08, 2008
The Hanging Woods
Sanders, Scott Loring. 2008. The Hanging Woods.
What can I say about this one? Really? Truly? It's dark. It's depressing. It's truly dreadful--dreadful in content, not style. It's disturbing, very disturbing. A difficult read, a discomforting read. Warped. Twisted. And oh-so-wrong.
First sentence: "In 1975, when I was thirteen, I killed a fox. It happened a few weeks after I'd snuck into my mother's room and read her diary. That diary told me a lot of things that I didn't want to know. Or maybe I did want to know them. I can't say for sure."
The good news is that you should be able to tell fairly early on whether or not The Hanging Woods is for you. In the first chapter alone we've got the slaughtering of a fox and a chicken. (And the two aren't connected. The fox wasn't after the chicken.) In the second chapter, we see many signs of unhealthy relationships. Relationships between friends. Relationships between families. And we see our first human death. Very bizarre. Not exactly murder. Not exactly calculated. But strange indeed. And in the third chapter, we learn that our narrator, Walter, committed arson. He burned a house down. So right from the start you know this is going to be one dark-and-weird book. It's not for everyone. The language. The violence. The subject matter. It just paints a very dark and unpleasant portrait of humanity. Not that I'm denying that humans can be ugly and cruel and tortured and demented and perverted and whatnot. But dismal, dismal, very dismal.
The Hanging Woods is about the breakdown of friends, of family, of the mind itself.
Personally, I don't like dark and edgy all that much. I prefer my narrators a bit more sane. HOWEVER I know that some readers will appreciate this one. It is well written. If it had been poorly written, I wouldn't have found the strength to keep reading.
Edited to add: I slept on this one. Given it some more thought. And I wanted to add that it was really well done. When characters are so thoroughly written, so powerfully drawn that you have to keep reading even if you personally hate where they are going...then that says something about the writing. So for skills in writing, in characterization this one gets my approval.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews