Everyone in Edgewood believes their annual tithes at the fall festival are what purchase Edgewood’s safety, but as Faye and her husband prepare to take over as town stewards—a long tradition carried out by her family for generations—they learn the terrible truth: in order to guarantee the town’s safety, the forest demands an unthinkable sacrifice.
In the midst of everything, Faye is secretly battling debilitating postpartum anxiety that makes her all the more terrified to leave the safe cocoon of her enchanted town.
When everyone turns against her—including her own husband—Faye is forced to flee with her infant son into the forest. She must face whatever lurks there and, perhaps most frightening of all, the dark torments of her own mind.
The Forest is an adult folk horror novel appealing to fans of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and Bird Box by Josh Malerman, with a hint of The Changeling by Victor LaValle. It is Quigley’s debut novel.
Lisa Quigley’s debut novel, The Forest, is one of those novels that sucked me into the plot and characters quicker than I expected. When the story started with Faye, the main character, running away from her town with her infant son to hide in the forest, I could not help but think about another book I read this year, Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon. I love Sorrowland, and I tried not to compare the two, but the plots in the beginning felt fairly similar. Both have mothers running away from a society that has their own rules, rules they cannot be a part of. The difference is that the main character in Sorrowland is much harder and much more angry than Faye. Faye had had a good life in Edgewood, mostly because Edgewood is a mystical town where nothing bad happens. Her husband came to this town to help his mother heal, and the town healed her so he stayed. Her parents and siblings are happy and satisfied people, and even though Faye does have a few wanderlust tendencies in the back of her mind, her life is so good that the thought of leaving the town was not too overpowering. Until now.
I wanted to dislike this much because of how much I enjoyed Sorrowland, but it did not take long for me to latch onto these characters and the dilemmas they faced and forget about comparing books. The Forest is it’s own novel, and even though I loved it, there are some things that start to get a little redundant, like the way she uses breastfeeding as a plot device. It seems like there is not much that Faye knows about how to soothe her infant son besides giving him her breast. There are times when he is hungry, but there are more times when she breastfeeds him because she does not know what else to do to soothe him. Something so normal becomes one of the few actions between her and her son. Another thing that she repeats often is the infant’s “downy” or “soft” hair. She uses this as a repeated way to give Faye some comfort. These things (and a few others) are very noticeable, but this does not get in the way of the fact that this is a great book.
There are things about the premise that I wish was explored more. I want to know more about Edgewood and what it is like to be a citizen of the town. I want to know more about the role of the town stewards and what that entails. I want to know more about the background of Faye’s postpartum anxieties. I know that it exists but I don’t know how it manifests. I want to know more about the forest and the fears that the town has of it. Lisa Quigley builds a world that we want to visit, and despite some of the imperfections of this novel, I will be recommending it to many of my friends and be looking forward to what comes next.