☆ Book Review: At the Edge of the Woods
Reviewed by Jaylynn Korrell
A spellbinding debut set in a lush natural world
Laura lives in a remote cabin in the Italian Alps. Her days consist of exploring the woods behind her home, tutoring young children from the nearby town, and translating documents for money. It’s all quite cozy, until someone from her past knocks on her door, shattering the illusion that Laura is simply a person who needed a change in life.
The reality of her situation is a bit darker, and as it catches up with her, our understanding of her present situation begins to untangle. And with it comes chaos and freedom.
Survival in the natural world, isolation, not having children–I love so much of what Bromwich is able to do with this novel. But my infatuation all starts with her protagonist Laura, a woman after my own heart. Just when we get comfortable with her, the narrative flips our understanding on its head. I never knew what was going to happen.
Still, it’s Browmwich’s effortless nature writing that may shine brightest here. The natural world is captured in gorgeous description. It brings a sense of calm to the reading experience even when situations are tense. About as close to a walk through the real world as a book can be, these descriptions simultaneously communicate the beauty of nature while never over-glorifying the reality of her way of living. The wildness is still here, whether it be through eating something she shouldn’t, losing her way, or meeting a predator.
While there are plenty of dangerous components in At the Edge of the Woods, Bromwich’s protagonist is mostly unfazed, unwilling to let anything compromise her current experience.
We later learn that this boldness is created in part from the pain of her past. Discovering this only makes her every move more purposeful. As she lets go of different parts of herself, changing how she presents herself or altering her reliance on modern conveniences, she gains a lot more. A new way of thinking seems to accompany a sort of second vision that teeters on the edge of reality.
With each extra moment she dedicates to the wild parts of herself, readers feel the balance begin to shift on how she is perceived. Her strength and confidence in one area makes the town a bit more wary of her. That wariness soon turns to a type of fear that makes them tense–then angry. It only made me love her more.
Bromwich brilliantly depicts Laura’s experience as only that which a woman can have. At one point, her lover recommends that she get a dog for extra protection and hints at the negative way that people have been talking about her in the town. As if living alone in a remote cabin in the woods wasn’t difficult enough, the threat of male intrusion is lurking, and, while frustrating, that extra layer of difficulty remains. If you read this book, you’ll feel the underlying fear for a woman alone in the woods just as you’ll admire her constant ability to overcome it. This is a book to be remembered.
Publisher: Two Dollar Radio
Genre: Literary & General Fiction / Nature
Print Length: 220 pages
Thank you for reading Jaylynn Korrell’s starred book review of At the Edge of the Woods by Kathryn Bromwich! If you liked what you read, please spend some more time with us at the links below.
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