Best friends Jane and Holly have jumped off the bluff over their Alabama reservoir hundreds of times. But one day, Holly’s jump goes wrong. Her body never comes up, yet something else does—a sad creature of mud, full of confusion and sorrow. It’s Holly, somehow, trapped and mixed up with the river. And if Jane can’t do something to help, Holly will take everybody down with her—even the people they love the most.
Blending Looking for Alaska’s theme of lost friendship with Stephen King’s sense of small-town horror, The Drowned Forest is a Southern gothic tale of grief, redemption, and the mournful yearning of an anguished soul.
While this novel tells readers that Holly is indeed trapped and needs help from her best friend, Jane, it’s main focus seemed to be on religion and obsession. And, with the extremely zealous religious outpour within the novel, it was hard for me to focus on much else. Jane and her family—her entire town really—seem to be a bit over the top in their views. I don’t think this was meant to be intentional, but how the pastor and the people within the town react to not only Holly’s death, but also Jane’s unhinging, put a very bad taste in my mouth—almost as if the story itself was taking a jab at religion, at people who turn to God when they have lost all else, and I didn’t like the vibe I was getting as I read.
The overabundant religious factor aside, though, I also found Jane’s character to be lacking. Her obsessive compulsion to talk non-stop to her dead friend, Holly, and Jane’s fixation on this death made me question her sanity, just like her family, on many an occasion, and while I know that Holly really is in the bundle of mud that’s on a murderous rampage within the town, I had a hard time seeing Jane as sane. Granted, I have never physically watched a friend die, though I’ve been to more funerals than I’d like to admit, and I know all people grieve differently, but Jane’s behavior struck me as extremely odd. Yes, it’s hard battling against virtually everyone in town, family included, but Jane’s decisions and obsessive qualities got tiresome rather early on, and while I really wanted to like this novel, I found that I personally couldn’t get past the religious and obsessive qualities of the novel. One star.
Flux has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review prior to its release on February 1, 2014.