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Into the Forest Paperback – September 1, 1998

4.1 out of 5 stars 243 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Jean Hegland's prose in Into the Forest is as breathtaking as one of the musty, ancient redwoods that share the woodland with Nell and Eva, two sisters who must learn to live in harmony with the northern California forest when the electricity shuts off, the phones go out, their parents die, and all civilization beyond them seems to grind to a halt. At first, the girls rely on stores of food left in their parents' pantry, but when those supplies begin to dwindle, their only option is to turn to each other and the forest's plants and animals for friendship, courage, and sustenance. Into the Forest, an apocalyptic coming-of-age story, will fill readers (both teens and adults) with a profound sense of the human spirit's strength and beauty. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Hegland's powerfully imagined first novel will make readers thankful for telephones and CD players while it underscores the vulnerability of lives dependent on technology. The tale is set in the near future: electricity has failed, mail delivery has stopped and looting and violence have destroyed civil order. In Northern California, 32 miles from the closest town, two orphaned teenage sisters ration a dwindling supply of tea bags and infested cornmeal. They remember their mother's warnings about the nearby forest, but as the crisis deepens, bears and wild pigs start to seem less dangerous than humans. From the first page, the sense of crisis and the lucid, honest voice of the 17-year-old narrator pull the reader in, and the fight for survival adds an urgent edge to her coming-of-age story. Flashbacks smartly create a portrait of the lost family: an iconoclastic father, artistic mother and two independent daughters. The plot draws readers along at the same time that the details and vivid writing encourage rereading. Eating a hot dog starts with "the pillowy give of the bun," and the winter rains are "great silver needles stitching the dull sky to the sodden earth." If sometimes the lyricism goes a little too far, this is still a truly admirable addition to a genre defined by the very high standards of George Orwell's 1984 and Russell Hoban's Ridley Walker.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 241 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press; Reprint edition (1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553379615
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553379617
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (243 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tome Toad on August 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
I'm a big fan of post holocaust fiction. I've read hundreds of stories over the past 40 years about Life after Doomsday. This is absolutely one of the best. It avoids the common assumptions of the genre. There is no sudden and dramatic change in the lives of the two young protagonists. There isn't an immediate awareness on the part of the community that something awful and terrifying is occurring. People don't suddenly go berserk. Marauding gangs of psychopaths don't appear out of nowhere to prey upon the vulnerability of their fellow citizens. Every character, every behavior, every reaction is believable and easily explained within the context of known human behavior. Everyone initially clings desperately to the belief that things haven't really changed, that the situation isn't that bad, that tomorrow, things will all return to normal. It's just a matter of holding on and continuing with their daily routines.

Hegland's placing of Nell and her sister Eva in a forest, far from the nearest town, was a brilliant device on many levels. Normally, doomsday writers place their protagonists right in the thick of things. They trap them in cities or situations where they can inflict upon them every supposedly predictable terror of life after the collapse, showing us clearly frightened people in clearly frightening times.

But Nell and Eva live in a quiet forest. The forest isn't just a location here. It's not there just to show us the girls' gardening skills or how to live a self-sufficient life. The forest is a major, living, breathing protagonist. Hegland renders it's character brilliantly. It is both serene and tumultuous, comforting and menancing, fiercely protective and neglectful.
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Format: Paperback
I found the premise of this book to be eerily fascinating and frightening. It hooked me from the first page and I could not put it down. This was very fast and interesting reading, except for one totally unnecessary scene which those of you who have read it will undoubtedly remember.
"Into the Forest" is what has been called "speculative fiction" and is set in the near-future, focusing on two teenage orphaned sisters. The girls try to survive the collapse, for no apparent reason, of their world and society as they knew it. All of a sudden, tankers do not arrive at gas stations, electricity disappears, law and order become a thing of the past, and there is no communication.
Living in the forest in Northern California, Nell and Eva struggle to survive in an often -alien environment as they try to adjust to isolation. Once they deplete the pantry in their house, feeding themselves is a daily challenge, as is their need to conquer overwhelming feelings of despair.
The author gradually builds the story to the point where the reader realizes that every single action these young girls perform is related to their continued survival. I think that this book provided food for thought, making me cringe at how dependent we all are on today's technology. I appreciated Hegland's knowledge of the uses of forest plants and berries, and of food preservation.
Like Paul Watkins' "Archangel" and Stephen King's "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon", the forest is a major character in the story.
I fear that I would not be a survivor.
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By A Customer on March 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
I found the reviews almost as interesting as the book. The book gave me much to think about. I think it was a highly probable premise: that society could collapse because of our voracious consumerism and the wars that rage at all times. I agree with those who said the author's prose was beautiful and delightful to read. I understand the comments about the lack of development of some of the characters, and the convenient location of the heroines far from the riots of civilization collapse. However, it allowed for the development of changes the characters experienced in the face of their isolation and dependence on their own resources. I don't think this book was anti-religious, nor do I think the sexual encounter between the two sisters was really about sex. I think it was about humans needing each other, and expressing that need in the one of the few ways we know. I also think this was ultimately a novel about change and learning to adapt. It was not saying that one way of life is better than another, but saying that all ways of life can be beautiful when you're willing to embrace what is, instead of resisting changes you don't like. It made me think about what is essential to life. In this book it boiled down to food, clothing, shelter and relationship. It made me consider how I have lost the ability to fend for myself in this world of conveniences and yet, how the world could still provide for me if the conveniences were to end. It reinforced my respect and gratitude for nature. It also got me interested in noticing and learning more about what is in the natural world for my benefit.
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Format: Paperback
The writing is beautiful and a joy to read. If for no other reason, this book deserves to be read for the craft and poetry imbedded in Ms. Hegland's prose. The story begins with a family of four that includes two daughters. One of them, Seventeen-year-old Nellie, the younger of the two sisters is the protagonist and the story line unfolds through her experiences and perceptions. Eva, who is older than Nellie by only a year, is initially only a backdrop but evolves into a more significant role as the plot progresses.
After reading the book I found it difficult to decide whether it was an odyssey or a fable, and maybe it's both. The environment for the story and the motivation that drives the plot line is the total failure of civilization's infrastructure. The family lives in an undetermined wilderness area, thirty miles from the nearest town, Redwood, which is remarkably similar in description to Healdsburg the author's hometown.
The story unfolds through a logical progression from problem through crises to climax and resolution. The emotional content includes denial, bestiality, fear, loss, love, depression and happiness, portrayed as randomly as it occurs in real life. We all grow up, traverse emotions similar to these, and then realize we are alone in ourselves and mostly we prevail by means of courage, resourcefulness and perseverance which are also in the story.
I used the verb `portrayed' rather than `told' intentionally, because to read this book is to live the story as it unfolds in your mind. It is said that a good story creates a dream state for the reader and it was true for me with this book. Half way through the book I woke one morning from an anxiety dream involving the dangers of living in the country as we do. So I was living the book.
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