Into the Forest By Jean Hegland

Into the Forest
Into the Forest

Book Details

detailsdetail
Book NameInto the Forest
AuthorJean Hegland
Item Weight 6.9 ounces
Hardcover241 pages
ISBN-100553379615
ISBN-13978-0553379617
Product Dimensions5.2 x 0.52 x 8.2 inches
PublisherDial Press; Reprint Edition (January 1, 1998)
LanguageEnglish
Best Sellers Rank#77,269 in Books
#885 in Dystopian Fiction
#1,969 in Contemporary Literature & Fiction
#3,539 in Family Life Fiction (Books)

NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE • Set in the near-future, Into the Forest is a powerfully imagined novel that focuses on the relationship between two teenage sisters living alone in their Northern California forest home.

Book Preview

It’s strange, writing these first words, like leaning down into the musty stillness of a well and seeing my face peer up from the water–so small and from such an unfamiliar angle I’m startled to realize the reflection is my own.  After all this time a pen feels stiff and awkward in my hand.  And I have to admit that this notebook, with its wilderness of blank pages, seems almost more threat than a gift–for what can I write here that it will not hurt to remember?

You could write about now, Eva said, about this time. This morning I was so certain I would use this notebook for studying that I had to work to keep from scoffing at her suggestion.  But now I see she may be right.  Every subject I think of–from economics to meteorology, from anatomy to geography to history–seems to circle around on itself, to lead me unavoidably back to now, to here, today.

Today is Christmas Day.  I can’t avoid that.  We’ve crossed the days off the calendar much too conscientiously to be wrong about the date, however much we might wish we were.  Today is Christmas Day, and Christmas Day is one more day to live through, one more day to be endured so that someday soon this time will be behind us.

By next Christmas, this will all be over, and my sister and I will have regained the lives we are meant to live.  The electricity will be back, the phones will work.  Planes will fly above our clearing once again.  In town, there will be food in the stores and gas at the service stations.  Long before next Christmas, we will have indulged in everything we now lack and crave–soap and shampoo, toilet paper and milk, fresh fruit, and meat.  My computer will be running, Eva’s CD player will be working.  We’ll be listening to the radio, reading the newspaper, using the Internet.  Banks and schools and libraries will have reopened, and Eva and I will have left this house where we now live like shipwrecked orphans.  She will be dancing with the corps of the San Francisco Ballet, I’ll have finished my first semester at Harvard, and this wet, dark day the calendar has insisted we call Christmas will be long, long over.

Plot

In the near future, two teenage sisters, Nell and Eva, live in a remotely located home with their father, Robert. There is a massive, continent-wide power outage that appears to be part of a region-wide technological collapse. Nell goes to the SUV to get the headlamp but fails to close the tailgate. The car battery is exhausted, so they are left stranded for days. A few weeks later, Robert gets the car working and they make it to the nearest town where they buy supplies, including gas from a man named Stan who’s guarding his store.

Later, Eva attends dance class while her sister meets up with Eli, a boy she has a crush on. Returning home, they see a stranded car and the girls’ father offers to help the passengers. But, after they brandish guns, the family moves on. Robert says they will not return to town until the power is returned, but Nell throws a fit at this due to wanting to see Eli. Later, while Robert is chopping down a tree, a bolt on the chainsaw comes loose and he accidentally slashes his leg. The girls hear his screams and frantically try to help him, but Robert knows he is bleeding to death. In his final moments, he encourages the girls to love and take care of each other. They stay with his body throughout the night, while animals linger in the darkness. The next day, they bury him in the forest.

Two months pass and the girls are low on food. Eli arrives one night, having walked there to see Nell. He says the surrounding houses are abandoned. Eva is upset that Eli is using their limited supplies and warns Nell not to get pregnant due to their already fighting situation. After Nell and Eli sleep together, he says there may still be power and order in Boston. He convinces Nell to go with him. They leave, but Eva declines to go with them. After spending the night sitting awake on the road while Eli sleeps, Nell turns back, unwilling to leave Eva. Nell researches plants for food and medicine and forages. Nell then has a night of celebration when she confirms she is not pregnant after her tryst with Eli.

One day, while Nell is in the forest foraging, Eva is overwhelmed by Stan while she is splitting logs outside the house. He assaults and rapes her before stealing most of the remaining gas and their SUV. The girls board up the house to prevent further scavengers and looters from arriving and harming them. A traumatized Eva stays indoors and lies in bed, refusing to eat. A few weeks later, Nell gets damaged trying to move an embedded rock, and Eva rushes out to help her. Back inside, Eva helps her heal before breaking down sobbing and confesses how scared she is. The next morning, Eva finally begins to eat but starts throwing up. She soon realizes she is pregnant as a result of her rape. To Nell’s surprise, Eva decides to keep the baby, saying that she “doesn’t want to lose anything else”.

Eight months later, the power still has not been restored. Nell is taking care of a now heavily-pregnant Eva and learns how to shoot and kill animals to get Eva needed nutrition. During a bad rainstorm, several beams of the roof break and Eva goes into labor. The sisters flee for Nell’s hollowed-out tree stump fort in the forest, where Eva gives birth to a baby boy. Returning to their broken and condemned home, Eva (who won the rest of the gas in a bet on the baby’s sex), decides to burn down the house so that anyone crossing will think that they died in a fire. Before setting the house ablaze, they collect a few precious items and keepsakes and start to walk into the darkened forest to set up camp at the hollow tree trunk.

Editorial Reviews

Review

“[A] beautifully written and often profoundly moving novel.”San Francisco Chronicle

“A work of extraordinary power, insight, and lyricism, Into the Forest is both an urgent warning and a passionate celebration of life and love.”—Riane Eisler, author of The Chalice and the Blade

“From the first page, the sense of crisis and the lucid, honest voice of the . . . narrator pull the reader in. . . . A truly admirable addition to a genre defined by the very high standards of George Orwell’s 1984.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Beautifully written.”Kirkus Reviews

“This beautifully written story captures the essential nature of the sister bond: the fierce struggle to be true to one’s own self, only to learn that true strength comes from what they are able to share together.”—Carol Saline, co-author of Sisters

“Jean Hegland’s sense of character is firm, warm, and wise. . . . [A] fine first novel.”—John Keeble, author of Yellowfish

From the Publisher

Praise for Jean Hegland’s Into the Forest

“[A] beautifully written and often profoundly moving novel.”
–San Francisco Chronicle

“A work of extraordinary power, insight and lyricism, Into the Forest is both an urgent warning and a passionate celebration of life and love.”
–Riane Eisler, author of The Chalice and the Blade

*“From the first page, the sense of crisis and the lucid, honest voice of the…narrator pull the reader in…A truly admirable addition to a genre defined by the very high standards of George Orwell’s 1984.
–Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Beautifully written.”
–Kirkus Reviews

“This beautifully written story captures the essential nature of the sister bond: the fierce struggle to be true to one’s own self, only to learn that true strength comes from what they are able to share together.”
–Carol Saline, co-author of Sisters

“Jean Hegland’s sense of character is firm, warm, and wise…[A] fine first novel.”
–John Keeble, author of Yellowfish

From the Inside Flap

Set in the near-future, Into the Forest is a powerfully imagined novel that focuses on the relationship between two teenage sisters living alone in their Northern California forest home.

Over 30 miles from the nearest town, and several miles away from their nearest neighbor, Nell and Eva struggle to survive as society begins to decay and collapse around them. No single event precedes society’s fall. There is talk of a war overseas and upheaval in Congress, but it still comes as a shock when the electricity runs out and gas is nowhere to be found. The sisters consume the resources left in the house, waiting for the power to return. Their arrival into adulthood, however, forces them to reexamine their place in the world and their relationship to the land and each other.

Reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, Into the Forest is a mesmerizing and thought-provoking novel of hope and despair set in a frighteningly plausible near-future America.

From the Back Cover

Set in the near future, “Into the Forest is a powerfully imagined novel that focuses on the relationship between two teenage sisters living alone in their Northern California forest home.
Over 30 miles from the nearest town, and several miles away from their nearest neighbor, Nell and Eva struggle to survive as society begins to decay and collapse around them. No single event precedes society’s fall. There is talk of a war overseas and upheaval in Congress, but it still comes as a shock when the electricity runs out and gas is nowhere to be found. The sisters consume the resources left in the house, waiting for the power to return. Their arrival into adulthood, however, forces them to reexamine their place in the world and their relationship to the land and each other.
Reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale, Into the Forest is a mesmerizing and thought-provoking novel of hope and despair set in a frighteningly plausible near-future America.

About the Author

Jean Hegland is the author of The Life Within: Celebration of a Pregnancy.  She lives with her husband and three children in northern California on fifty-five acres of second-growth forest.  She is at work on her next novel, which explores the issues of motherhood.