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Book Review: We Went to the Woods

August 28, 2019

Hello all! It is week 35, and I am sadly only on book 34! But, since I am super behind, this is my book review for #33... I know right!?! I am really working on catching up! But there are only so many hours to read during the day!

 

If you need a refresher on why I'm doing a weekly book review, look here!

 

I had no real expectations going in to this week's book. It was one I picked solely because the cover (and the title) looked interesting. So, with no more ado, here is my book review for We Went to the Woods by Caite Dolan-Leach!

 We Went to the Woods begins with Mack, a twenty-something, disgraced and moving back into her parent's house in Ithaca, NY. She outed a fellow contestant on a game-show, and is now receiving vicious hate mail. She takes a job catering where she meets Louisa, another twenty-something, with money. The two become friends, and she soon meets Louisa's other friends: Beau, Jack and Chloe. 

 

Louisa and Beau soon pitch their idea to the others: to live on a patch of land away from society, all self-sustaining. 

 

Mack is excited to get away from society, and soon the five move to the Homestead.

 

They quickly begin cleaning and farming. They make friends with another commune, The West Hill Collective, who Beau and Louisa know from earlier.

 

Soon, spring emerges, and Homestead is growing. Mack is jealous of Louisa and Chloe, because they both spend "time" with Beau. Mack soon rescues a stray, Argos, and they learn their neighbor is farming on a chunk of their land. 

 

During the ensuing lawsuit, Mack begins researching other communes in the area, and tries to figure out why they collapsed.

 

When the founder of the Collective returns, Mack begins asking questions. Matthew, the founder, apparently brought very young girls to the commune, and was the sole man there at the time.

 

When Argos turns up poisoned, and dies, Mack learns he used to belong to a girl who ran away from the Collective. She begins to distrust them as their social activism becomes more and more violent. Soon, Beau is sucked in. When winter comes, and a break-in goes wrong, Mack goes to search for her friends, and ends up losing two fingers to frostbite. Jack and Beau both turn up dead, by Louisa returns to Homestead to find Chloe has attempted to kill herself. Unable to deal with Homestead, or society at large, Mack takes a job in South Africa where she sees true poverty and realizes what they had been doing at the Homestead was ultimately pointless. 

 

I found We Went to the Woods really interesting. I went in with no expectations, and therefore, was not disappointed. I thought the characters were interesting, but the politics were a little stale for my liking. I found Mack a little whiny, and sometimes a little dense. The only character I truly liked was Jack, but I think Dolan-Leach intentionally made him that way. Louisa, Beau, and Chloe were basically insufferable, with their high morals, and weak constitutions, but again, I believe that was a style choice by Dolan-Leach. The novel was sometimes hard to get through because I couldn't really relate to any of the characters.

 

I did like how Homestead became its own character. The setting was so important in this novel, that it was almost inevitable for Homestead to take on a life of its own. It was easy to get lost in the description of Homestead, much as the characters got lost in the beauty of the land. The setting was so much of a focal point for the novel that I'm glad Dolan-Leach gave it the attention it deserved. 

 

There were sections of Dolan-Leach's writing that I loved, stylistically speaking. She was not overly flowery, but very introspective. She did have beautifully moving passages about nature, the earth, and the passing of time. I found her style, and Mack's voice, very original, which was refreshing. Sometimes the writing got a little dense, and occasionally dull, but again, I believe this was a stylistic choice to mirror the ebb and flow of life on the Homestead.

 

Ultimately, I enjoyed We Went to the Woods. It was different than anything else I've read yet this year. The political overtones were a bit much for me, and the characters a bit lacking, which is why I'm giving We Went to the Woods by Caite Dolan-Leach only a 3 out of 5. 

 

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