Two Reviews of The Forest

I’m delighted to post these two reviews.  Enjoy!

The Forest, a review by Barbara Gilcrest

What a gentle book!  To open the cover of The Forest is to step into the world of the Graybarks  where Timkin lives with his fellow Menchians.  This race of tiny people have lived good and well ordered lives among these tall and impervious trees for many, many years but Timkin senses there is more beyond his horizon.  So, he sets off on a journey in his search for the One.   He looks for the source of the good and the reason for evil.  His adventures and misadventures take him through forests, glens, meadows, deep valleys, across oceans and over mountain tops, facing dangers and learning humility.  He is aided by Parcaw, the raven;  Shenda, the wolf;  Rowandane, the lioness;  Karrel, the H’monn and many other creatures of the forest who have come to live peacefully side by side.  It is a place where animals and even the rocks and trees communicate with one another.  Amid this beautiful but sometimes terrifying world,  Timkin discovers himself and realizes, when he meets the One, that all creatures both animate and inanimate yearn to be in touch with the source of all goodness and light. It is only there where real truth and unfeigned joy are found.  This mythical tale, written in the style of C.S. Lewis or J.R.R.Tolkien, will draw one into a world of fantasy but, after traveling there with Timkin and meeting Samrung who IS the One, one learns that guilt over one’s failings can be overcome with faith and true humility.

The author describes this fantasy world with grace and beauty and, after reading The Forest, this reader will never again look at the world through the same eyes.  

 

An Enchanting Journey

The Forest by Susan Prudhomme (OakTara, February 2011) 242 pages.  Reviewed by Christine Sunderland

Author Susan Prudhomme begins this wonder-filled tale with these tantalizing words:

“The Forest lies in velvet mystery on the face of mountains and valleys, its mists spreading amongst the ridges like a sleeping, purring beast.”

We soon enter the world of Timkin Tanwarrel and join him on his great adventure.  Timkin is a Menchian, one of the little people of the forest, cousins to humans.   We are introduced to Timkin with words that engender trust in the teller:

“Into the Menchian family of Tanwarrel, Timkin was born.  It was a fine family, austere and proud…” 

The authorial voice is that of classic storytelling.  We want to know more.  We want to sit by the fire, turn each delicious page, and step into this world.

Timkin is a dreamy adolescent when he accidentally falls into a river and is swept over the falls, into another land.  From there the disoriented Menchian embarks on a journey, not sure where he is going, much like each of us, as we too journey through life.  We care about Timkin, no matter our age, for we too are travelers and we too are not always sure of our destination.

Many quest-journey tales involve clear goals, places to reach, gold to find, wrongs to right, the lost to be saved.  Not so in this story of Timkin and his forest adventures.  He is simply lost and trying to survive, to figure it all out.  While the reader has a clear sense there is a final destination hovering in the pages, we share with the young Menchian his fear, his struggles, his growth.  He falls and we fall; he continues on and we continue on; he is victorious and we are too.  With Timkin we become acquainted with talking badgers, lions, birds, and many other creatures, well rounded unique characters with their own stories, their own struggles and doubts.

Over-arching this journey through forest and mountains, alongside lakes and streams, is the One, a being of love and majesty, yet dark forces are also at work.  A cosmology of good and evil forms the backdrop for the story, and we see we are bent creatures seeking to be redeemed. Within this framework, the author is not afraid to face some profound questions, probing into the relationships between man and other animals, between animals themselves, and between man and the natural world.

Susan Prudhomme’s careful diction perfectly describes the forest and its many landscapes, fully involving our senses:

“Here, without the sound of water, the silence became nearly complete.  Timkin heard only his own breathing, his soft footfalls, and an occasional snapping twig as he stepped incautiously.  He soon learned to tread as silently as any cat.  There were no birdcalls, no squirrel chatter, not even the rustle of a lizard in the dry leaves.  Timkin marveled, even as he reveled in his solitude.” 

Descriptions weave a subtext poetically, in this case honoring the past as a cushion to the present:

“At night he found shelter under the larger ferns’ fronds, on ground softened by past seasons’ fallen leaves.”

While clearly influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien, Susan Prudhomme has her own lovely style, drawing us into Timkin’s world.  I didn’t want Timkin’s journey to end, to find myself turning the last page.

The Forest will be loved by readers of all ages, a finely written work and a true jewel.  We can only hope and pray that the sequel is not long in coming!

Christine Sunderland is author of the trilogy, Pilgrimage, Offerings, and Inheritance.  Her fourth novel, Hana-lani was released in December 2010.  www. ChristineSunderland.com.  You can read my review of Hana-lani by clicking “Book Reviews” to the right.

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