I have absolutely no idea how These Silent Woods ended up on my Want to Read shelf, which is not an altogether unusual occurrence. I tend to add books to that particular shelf with wild abandon; the strategy is add now—usually, in the midst of a 3 a.m. insomnia-laced internet spiral—cull later. But when later arrived, my instinct to cull was curbed by the novel’s average star rating on Goodreads. Let’s be clear: I do not have the strongest of faith in the alignment of my reading taste with the general public’s. But still. A 4.2-star rating after nearly 9,000 reviews isn’t nothing. Readers love this book. This book that I’ve never heard of. By this author that I’ve never heard of. I was curious. And, several hours later, I was hooked. Two days later—days during which I only stopped reading because I’m an adult obligated to resist the impulse to ignore my responsibilities and take a Read Day—I love this book. If I was the kind of reviewer that used exclamation points, I would scatter them here after words like “heart-wrenching,” “haunting,” and “emotionally resonant.” Instead, I will say this: If you are the kind of reader who cries, settle in with a box of tissues and prepare for an emotional gut punch. Think you’ve lost faith in your fellow man? Think humans are capable only of destroying all that is good and beautiful? Read this. Were it not for the epilogue (I have yet to find an epilogue in any book ever written that is not either entirely superfluous or, more often, damaging to the narrative arc), I would give Woods five stars.
… there is a word for such unmerited favor. That word is grace. The thing about grace is that you don’t deserve it. You can’t earn it. You can only accept it. Or not.