"In the Heart of the Dark Wood", Billy Coffey's 5th book, is, like the others, set in the fictional town of Mattingly, Virginia, using many of the same characters as in the previous books. The new novel is not a sequel in the strictest sense, but certainly is built on the stories already told, particularly "When Mockingbirds Sing". That heartbreaking, yet hopeful story included a tragedy which caused tremendous damage (emotional as well as physical) to the entire community.
In "Mockingbirds", we were introduced to Allie, a young girl whose mother was taken away by the tornado, her body never found. The new story focuses on Allie's search for her lost mother. Allie believes her mom is the focus of her search, but it becomes apparent that she's actually looking for closure, for healing, for her dad's freedom from addiction, and for the restoration of her faith. Along the way, Allie's friend Zach discovers, at the age of 12, that he is much further along in the journey to manhood than he knew.
Despite the 370-page length, this book managed to keep my interest as I followed Allie, Zach, and her pooch Sam on their trek through the woods. Once I reached the end, the payoff was huge. The conclusion to the story was powerful, and I didn't see it coming.
When I finished "In the Heart of the Dark Wood", I felt closer to God, and gained a greater appreciation for His sovereignty, how much He is in control, and how much he loves us and cares for us in creative ways.
Disclaimer 1: The book opens with a scene in which Allie experiences her first period. It made for some awkward reading, but trust me when I say it's essential to the story. I mention this in case you plan to let your kid read the book, as I did.
Disclaimer 2: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.