Let’s travel to the English countryside for a weekend away, spent in a private, isolated glass cottage in the woods. The floor to ceiling windows capture the natural enclosure of the backwoods. No cell reception means no interruptions. Sounds lovely, right?
Now let’s add the burden of attending a bachelorette party with a bunch of strangers for your estranged high school best friend. The one you haven’t spoken to in nearly 10 years — after an awkward falling out. You’ve been invited to the party, but you’re not quite sure why, since you haven’t even been invited to the wedding. And why would you be? You two haven’t been friends for a long time. She has a new best friend now. Not so lovely anymore.
That’s the premise of In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. It would be an uncomfortable situation for anyone, but for Nora, short for Leonora, it’s more than just a disagreeable weekend. The company is unbearable. The shy, awkward teen has grown into a recluse author that would prefer the company of her running shoes over socializing. To the bride, she’s still Lee, her teenage identity. But Nora is no longer her 16-year-old self, and high school was a long time ago.
In a Dark, Dark Wood focuses around Nora and her weekend away with Clare (the bride), Flo (the over anxious to please Maid of Honor), Nina (the high school friend Nora sometimes chats with), theatrical Tom (what’s a guy doing here?) and new mom Melanie. We are taken through a series of flashbacks as Nora tries to remember what happened in the last 48 hours. She knows it’s something serious by the constant post of a police officer outside her hospital room. But what? Her fate, as well as those of her companions, depends on what she remembers next.
I was completely addicted to the book, reading every chance I got, when I explained the plot excitedly to my husband. He joked, “And it was A!” I said no, it’s not like that –. Then i realized, it absolutely was Pretty Little Liars all grown up. The secrets from high school that the girls thought were buried, were now coming out. While the story also had some dark twists like the cheesy Young Adult series, it was at a much deeper, disturbing level.
These characters aren’t bored, suburban teenage girls anymore. They are adults holding onto grudges, armed with weapons. The former best friend is now getting grilled and resented by the current best friend. The bachelorette party consists of practice shooting and Ouija board. When the phone line goes out and there’s no cell service, the wedding party goes into a panic. Finally, a door is accidentally left open during the night and someone can be heard walking downstairs, the group can only hope to scare off the intruder – but what happens next?
What first caught my eye about this book was the distinction between Leonora’s two names. Some know her as Lee and some know her as Nora. Being around a high school friend is making her transform back to that person she used to be. It wasn’t just that she goes by different names in different parts of her life, but the uncertainty of it. The book description refers to her as “Nora (Lee?).” I wondered, why the question mark?
Here’s what will keep you reading: we’re dealing with an unreliable narrator. The question you have to ask yourself is, do you believe Nora? Is what she is telling us the truth or not? Is it what she wants us to believe? I think that was the most nail biting part of this story. I so wanted to believe her, but I couldn’t knock the feeling that she may be lying.
I appreciate the ending. I won’t give anything away, but it was reminiscent of the ending of Lolita: the truth is revealed and Humbert Humbert faces off with his rival. The question is, who is Nora’s rival?
I read this book in the course of a weekend. It had that suspense that kept me up way past my bedtime. I found this recluse to be very likable. Her devotion to running made me want to put down the book and go for a jog as well. Unlike some of the mysteries I’ve read, there was a serious lack of coffee in this book that even the characters noticed it. At one point, our characters contact the spirits from the other side and are told to buy some coffee already.
One more exciting thing to note, while I researched a little more history on the book, i read several references that this may soon be a movie! I do love my movies based on fiction, so I am definitely looking forward to watching how this story translates to the audience on the big screen.
Cost: $0.00 from my local library on Overdrive.
Drink of Choice: Honey Bee latte with soy milk