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These Silent Woods

Review

These Silent Woods

How far would you go to protect someone you love? It’s a question that Cooper, the man at the heart of Kimi Cunningham Grant’s slow-burning sec​​ond novel, THESE SILENT WOODS, has to ask himself again and again. For nearly a decade, he and his daughter Finch have lived in near-complete isolation in a cabin in the Appalachian wilderness. Now, events beyond his control threaten to upend their peaceful but precarious existence. This forces Cooper to make difficult choices about what he’s willing to do to keep the hostile outside world at bay.

When the bo​​ok opens, Cooper and eight-year-old Finch are living a kind of semi-primitive, fairy-tale life. Their home is surrounded by acres of woods, which serve as both a source of food and a sort of outdoor classroom for the inquisitive, whipsmart Finch, who supplements her education by reading through the cabin’s library. (She’s a particular fan of Walt Whitman.) Their only regular human contact is with their “shifty and scrappy” neighbor Scotland, whom Finch loves but Cooper views with wary suspicion.

"[R]eaders who have come to love Grant’s compelling and vividly drawn main characters will cheer --- and perhaps tear up --- at the ending she’s written for them."

Grant has placed her characters in an idyllic and seemingly peaceful setting, but there’s an undercurrent of unease. The novel begins with Cooper killing a raccoon that's gotten into their henhouse, dispatching the invader in a flurry of violence. He knows it’s overkill, but “sometimes a thing inside of me flashes, dark and despicable.” Readers will immediately start to wonder what exactly led Cooper, an Army veteran wh​​o saw combat in Afghanistan, to turn his back on the world. And where is Cindy, Finch’s mother?

Grant slowly reveals the answers to those questions as she weaves a story of a man suffering fro​​m PTSD following his experiences in combat and devastated by a personal tragedy. As we learn what led Cooper into the woods, circumstances arise that push him to leave his sanctuary. First, Jake, Cooper’s Army buddy and the cabin’s owner, fails to appear for his annual visit and supply run. With winter closing in, Cooper has no choice but to make a risky and “bewildering” trip to Walmart to buy essential supplies. Then two strangers appear: a young woman who wanders uninvited onto their land, and Jake’s sister. Finch is drawn to both ladies. The first she sees as a potential friend; the second is a maternal figure to a little girl who has never known her own mother.

Cooper is a believably flawed yet sympathetic character. His decision to go off the grid might have been rash, but, as he says, “creatures protect their young in the most senseless ways.” Whatever mistakes he has made, his love for his daughter is genuine, and their affecting relationship is the emotional heart of this book. Less plausible is the idea that Cooper would have been able to disappear so completely in the first place and remain hidden for so many years.

As the mystery of Cooper’s past is revealed, another one surfaces. The young woman he and Finch spotted in the woods has vanished, which brings an unwelcome spotlight to their little corner of the world. Like any parent, Cooper has always known that eventually he will have to let his daughter go and give her the freedom to build her own life. But as the investigation into the disappearance heats up, he realizes that their time together may end up being shorter than he anticipated.

The tension ratchets up in the final pages of THESE SILENT WOODS, as Cooper must make a choice between doing what he wants and doing what is right. A convenient, last-minute plot twist is somewhat hard to swallow. However, readers who have come to love Grant’s compelling and vividly drawn main characters will cheer --- and perhaps tear up --- at the ending she has written for them.

Reviewed by Megan Elliott on November 19, 2021

These Silent Woods
by Kimi Cunningham Grant

  • Publication Date: November 16, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250793394
  • ISBN-13: 9781250793393